National-level competitive swimming will restart after more than a year-long, Covid-induced hiatus, with the 37th sub-junior and 47th junior National Aquatic Championships that begin here on Tuesday. The event will be followed by the 74th Senior National Aquatic Championships from October 26 to 29.
The newly-renovated Basavanagudi Aquatic Centre will be the main venue, with the Kensington Swimming Pool in Ulsoor hosting diving competitions and the Nettakallappa Aquatic Centre water polo. More than 1200 athletes are expected to participate.
“The Covid-19 period was tough for swimming. Across states, swimming was the first to be stopped and the last to be opened,” said Monal Chokshi, secretary-general of the Swimming Federation of India, at a media briefing on Monday.
“But we are glad that the calendar has restarted and these events will help the swimmers prepare for 2022 which has the Asian Games, World Championships among others. The announcement of these competitions also spurred other state units to put pressure on their governments to relax restrictions for swimming,” added Chokshi.
But the less-than-ideal preparation might have an effect on the timings at the two National meets. “We are not expecting great performances, barring from a few who have been in continuous training,” Chokshi said. “On the whole, there may be fewer National records.”
Qualification guidelines have also been relaxed, with the SFI permitting two swimmers from a state unit per event even if the qualification times haven’t been achieved. Generally, a single entry is allowed if no swimmer has achieved qualification or two entries only where both candidates have achieved the time standard.
Regardless, the likes of Ridhima Virendrakumar, Nina Venkatesh and Shoan Ganguly from Karnataka, Ananya Joshi and Aryan Varnekar from Maharashtra, Vishesh Parmeshwar from Tamil Nadu and Bhavya Sachdeva from Delhi are expected to shine.
The SFI will also be selecting 10 promising juniors for a joint-training camp with the South African junior squad in early 2022. The symbolism of the two National meets, however, goes way beyond. “The hosting of this event is a sign of normalcy,” said Gopal B.Hosur, President of the Karnataka Swimming Association. “And we are thankful to the SFI for reposing faith in us.”