India’s best swimmers will go all out to make waves at the Sardar Patel Swimming Complex when the National Games Aquatics competition gets underway here on Sunday. Olympians Sajan Prakash (Kerala) and Srihari Natraj (Karnataka) among men and Maana Patel (Gujarat) among women are expected to claim top honours.
Sajan Prakash emerged the Best Male Athlete of the 2015 National Games in his home state after bagging a phenomenal six gold and three silver medals. Besides him and backstroke specialist Srihari Nataraj, who is aiming to shine in the Freestyle sprints, Siva Sridhar (Karnataka) and a host of other young claimants for that crown this time around.
Gujarat’s Aryan Nehra and Aryan Panchal are among those hoping to make a splash while Aneesh S Gowda (Karnataka) will get a taste of the National Games competition. Teenagers Vedaant Madhavan (Maharashtra), son of the film star R Madhavan, will also be watched with keen interest.
The women’s field will be led by Olympian and local favourite Maana Patel. The Backstroke specialist emerged as the best swimmer of the 75th National Aquatics Championships held in Guwahati last month with a haul of four gold and two bronze medals. Veteran Richa Mishra will also look to win a couple of medals here to take her tally of National Games medals to 50.
Spearheaded by Maana Patel, Gujarat are expected to showcase the rapid strides they have made in the pool in recent times. The star-studded Gujarat boasts of swimmers like Aryan Panchal, Aryan Nehra, Anshul Kothari and Devansh Parmar among others. Gujarat won seven medals – five individual medals and two in relays – in Guwahati and they could surpass that with home support.
Karnataka had won both the men and women’s titles in those championships and they will surely be the force to reckon with here as well. Besides Srihari Natraj, they have some phenomenal swimmers like Ridhima Veerendrakumar and Sambhavv Rama Rao in their ranks.
Traditional contenders Maharashtra will be weakened by the absence of the likes of Mihir Ambre, Kenisha Gupta and Apeksha Fernandes. West Bengal and Kerala as well as Services in the men’s section will however be no pushovers and the possibility of new stars emerging from the less renowned States cannot be ruled out.
Nearly 450 swimmers and divers will take part in the 42 Aquatics events that also includes eight relays. “Everything is ready, all arrangements are done. There is no issue,” said Competition Manager Kamlesh Nanavati.