Exclusive: I could not have done it without Dubai, says Prakash after Olympic 'A' qualification
Sajan Prakash became the first Indian in history to achieve the 'A' qualification time for Olympics
It’s rare for an Indian swimmer to generate a buzz on Twitter. But Sajan Prakash did that after becoming the first Indian in history to achieve the ‘A’ qualification time for Olympics while booking his place in the Tokyo Games.
The 27-year-old swimmer from Idukki, Kerala, earned his Tokyo berth on Saturday evening by clocking 1:56.38 in the 200m butterfly event at the Sette Colli Trophy in Rome.
The Tokyo Olympics ‘A’ qualifying standard for the 200m butterfly was set at 1:56.48 seconds. And Prakash completed his event in Rome 0.10 seconds faster than the ‘A’ standard time while breaking his own national record (1:56.96s) that he had set in Belgrade last week.
Amazing. Bravo Sajan! Hope this signals a new era of participation by Indians in the top rungs of the sport. And I’m particularly envious. I’ve been swimming since childhood but still haven’t mastered the rhythm of the Butterfly stroke! Anyone with some tips to make it easier? https://t.co/opykBoIQ6V— anand mahindra (@anandmahindra) June 26, 2021
Remarkably, gaining the ‘A’ qualification for the Olympics with a new national record was not the only achievement from Prakash on Saturday.
He also became the first Indian swimmer in history to qualify for two Olympics, having already represented India at the 2016 Rio Games.
No wonder then that Twitter was flooded with congratulatory messages for this unassuming swimmer.
From business tycoon Anand Mahindra and politician Shashi Tharoor to actor R Madhavan, a slew of prominent Indian personalities celebrated the landmark moment in Indian swimming on Twitter.
Congratulations to Sajan Prakash on his “A” qualification for the Olympics. He’s India’s first swimming star to be a contender in Tokyo— all the best for success, Sajan! https://t.co/sPOR0bRfik— Shashi Tharoor (@ShashiTharoor) June 27, 2021
And Prakash says his achievements would not have been possible without Dubai where he has been training at the Aqua Nation Sports Academy (ANSA) since last year.
“I could not have done it without the support in Dubai. My coach Pradeep Kumar Sir and his wife, the whole team in ANSA, all of them took care of me very well and I could not have imagined doing this without their support,” Prakash told Khaleej Times over phone from Rome.
“Yes, since last evening, we have been receiving so many calls and messages. My family, my mom, she is very happy and I feel like the weight has been lifted off my head,” he said.
CONGRATULATIONS @swim_sajan .. for the brilliant swim in Rome today. .. and qualifying for the 2021 OLYMPICS BY BEATING THE A CUT TIMING. We are so very thrilled and proud. Now Rock it in Japan my man. Congratulations Swimming Federation of India, Coach Pradip Kumar & ANSA pic.twitter.com/yNf4K70lyN— Ranganathan Madhavan (@ActorMadhavan) June 26, 2021
After the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic last year, Prakash was worried about his preparations in India for the Olympics and decided to move to the UAE in his bid to qualify for Tokyo.
“I was lucky that I was in Dubai since last year because it’s been so difficult for everyone. I could train in Dubai and travel (to different countries) to swim (in qualifying events) when so many swimmers were not able to swim in India,” Prakash said.
Now Prakash will return to Dubai to make his final preparations for the Tokyo Games (July 23-August 8) which begins in less than a month’s time.
“I will soon be returning to Dubai for my final preparations, my speed training. I will be in Dubai until I leave for Tokyo,” Prakash confirmed before acknowledging the challenge ahead at the first Olympics since the outbreak of Covid-19.
“Yes, we will all be in bio-bubble. We will be given the guidelines, the rules and restrictions. It’s going to be a unique Olympics!”
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