How Dubai helped India's Sajan Prakash make Olympic history

Indian swimmer Sajan Prakash has been training at the Aqua Nation Sports Academy (ANSA) in Dubai since last year. (AFP)
Indian swimmer Sajan Prakash has been training at the Aqua Nation Sports Academy (ANSA) in Dubai since last year. (AFP)

Dubai - Prakash, who has been training in Dubai since last year, became the first Indian to make the 'A' cut for the Olympics


Rituraj Borkakoty

Published: Sat 26 Jun 2021, 8:44 PM

India’s Sajan Prakash made history on Saturday, becoming the first-ever swimmer from the south Asian country to make the ‘A’ cut for the Olympics as he qualified for the Tokyo Games.

And Dubai had a big role in Prakash reaching the new landmark.

With the Covid-19 situation in India making it difficult for swimmers to prepare for the Summer Games, Prakash decided to move to the UAE last year and has been training at the Aqua Nation Sports Academy (ANSA) in Dubai since then.

Finally, after a year of meticulous preparations, the 27-year-old swimmer from Idukki, Kerala, made the ‘A’ qualifying mark for Tokyo with a time of 1:56.38 in the 200m butterfly event at the Sette Colli Trophy in Rome.

Prakash earned his Olympic berth just six days after clinching the gold medal in the 200m butterfly race at the Belgrade Trophy.

Qualifying for the Olympics hasn’t been easy for the international swimmers with a slew of events getting postponed or cancelled due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

On Saturday, Prakash held his nerve to qualify for the Games for the second time in his career, having represented India at the 2016 Rio Olympics.

Indian coach Pradeep Kumar was delighted with the achievement of his ward.

“Today was the last day of qualification, today was his last chance. So, you know, there is absolutely a sense of relief and great happiness,” Kumar told Khaleej Times over phone from Rome.

Kumar, who also has also been coaching swimmers at ANSA, says the training facilities in Dubai helped Prakash in his bid to qualify for Tokyo.

“It has helped him a lot because he could continue to train here in the Covid times. The facilities here are excellent. And the support system from ANSA was fantastic. Dubai and ANSA offered him an amazing experience for him to train,” said Kumar, before revealing how his support for Prakash went beyond the role of a coach.

“He is like my own family, you know. Here in Dubai, he has been staying with us. My wife took care of him like he is our own son. We have been getting lots of calls now from India, sports authorities, media. So it’s been a very emotional moment for us.”

Prakash, who became the first Indian swimmer to qualify for the 200m butterfly final in 32 years at the Asian Games when he finished fifth in 2018 at Jakarta, came to Dubai to train with the Indian swimming squad last year.

“While the other members of the team left after their training camp, Sajan decided to stay back with us because he found the facilities wonderful,” Viji Susan Mathew, Managing Director of ANSA, told Khaleej Times on Saturday.

“We know Sajan for quite a long time. He came to ANSA before as well. He used to come here for three months or four months. So he was always comfortable here. When I spoke to him today, he said, ‘I am so happy for all the support that ANSA has given’.

“I think the support we gave him helped him emotionally and he was at peace mentally while trying to qualify for the Olympics. I think he was able to train here without any constraints. So it’s definitely a very proud moment for all of us.”

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