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Swimming camp starts in Dubai after a day’s quarantine

The camp for three Indian swimmers who have achieved the Olympic ‘B’ qualification mark for next year’s Tokyo Olympic Games started on Thursday at the Aqua Nation Sports Academy (ANSA) in Dubai. The swimmers had couple of sessions to get acclimatized themselves with the conditions.

For the last few months, Srihari Nataraj has practiced his strokes in his mind, swimming across an imaginary Olympic-sized pool as the actual ones were closed because of Covid-19. While other sporting facilities in India began to slowly open in June, pools continue to be shut.

Nataraj and his fellow top swimmers—Kushagra Rawat and Sajan Prakash—finally made an appeal to the Sports Authority of India to allow them to shift to Dubai for training.

On Thursday, Nataraj and Kushagra got their first taste of a pool in almost six months when they hit the water at a swimming academy at the Swiss International Scientific School in Al Jaddaf.

“It feels good. I already swam two sessions. Glad to be back in the water,” Nataraj said.

Srihari (100m backstroke) and Kushagra (400m freestyle) along with coach AV Jairaj reached Dubai from New Delhi on Tuesday for the two-month camp sponsored by the Sports Authority of India (SAI). Prakash (200m butterfly), who came in as replacement after Virdhawal Khade withdrew due to “personal reasons”, flew in from Thailand, where he was training in Phuket since June.

They had a one-day quarantine in Dubai before they got permission to start swimming.

“We had only a day of quarantine, which was to wait for our test results done in Dubai,” said Nataraj. “All good going here, getting back the feel (of water) slowly and enjoying it as well.”

After the first couple of weeks of acclimatization and building in-water strength, the swimmers will be getting into the actual business of training for the rigors of competitive swimming. They have to make up for lost time—the five months when they could only work on general fitness on land.

“As of now, I have not set any targets. I haven’t done any planning yet,” Nataraj said.

The three swimmers will be hoping that pools will be opened in India by the time this camp ends. Otherwise, the Swimming Federation of India will have to seek another two-month extension from SAI.

Once competitions start, they will be attempting to achieve the’A’ cutoff for the Tokyo Games to be held in July-August 2021.

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