Only men swimmers for Asian games
Bangalore October 29:
With the Swimming Federation of India (SFI) deciding to strictly adhere to the qualification standard, India will field an all-men swimming team for the 14th Asian Games in Guangzhou.
Top men swimmers, including Sandeep Sejwal and Virdhwal Khade, will carry the country's hopes as SFI announced a nine-member squad for the quadrennial event. It is for the first time since 1998 Bangkok Games that the Indian swimming contingent does not have a woman swimmer in its ranks. "None of the women swimmers met the qualification times set by the federation," national coach S Pradeep Kumar said, explaining the reason for not including women swimmers in the squad.
The swimmers needed to clock the sixth-place timing of the last Asian Games to make the cut. But all the girls came a cropper in three qualification meets — junior nationals, senior nationals and Federation Cup — held this year. "The dropout rate among women swimmers is alarming. We had lot of swimmers in the junior level. But once they started concentrating on academics they failed to perform in swimming," Pradeep said.
"Even in Karnataka, which is a traditional swimming powerhouse, the dropout rate among girls is high. In the men's section, we can pick from a talent pool of 5,000. But in the women's section it is only 500," he said. In 1998, the Indian squad for Asian Games had five women swimmers as Nisha Millet, Meghna Narayan, Abhinaya Shetty, Shikha Tandon and Richa Mishra vied for honours. But the numbers started dwindling from then on. Only two women — Richa and Shikha — took part in the 2002 Busan Games, while only Shikha carried the the hopes of Indian women in the 2006 edition in Doha.
Expressing shock, Nisha Millet said lack of dedication towards swimming has cost the Indian women dear. "They concentrate on education. It's not easy to find a balance between your studies and competition. It's time the girls took to swimming seriously. Otherwise, we won't see women swimmers in next Olympics too," she said. After a week-long confusion, the preparatory camp for the Games began at the Sports Authority of India, South Centre.
SAI officials in Delhi had directed the SFI to start the camp on Oct 21. But the officials in Bangalore got the letter only on Wednesday. "We lost seven precious days," lamented Pradeep. Of the nine swimmers, only Sejwal and Khade met the qualification marks in the individual events while other made the grade in relays. Sandeep will compete in the 50m, 100m and 200m, while Khade will figure in 50m and 100m freestyle and butterfly events.
Team: Sandeep Sejwal, Rehan Poncha, Virdhawal Khade, Aaron D'Souza, Rohit Havaldar, Arjun JP, Mandra Divase, Balakrishnan MB, Anshul Kothari.