Swimmers Nataraj, Patel nominated for Universality places in Tokyo Olympics

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The Swimming Federation of India has nominated Srihari Nataraj and Maana Patel to compete in the Olympics via the Universality places qualification system, which allows countries to recommend their two highest ranked swimmers for the showpiece if none makes the cut through the regulation process.

The Universality quota allows one male and one female competitor from a country to participate in the Olympics, provided no other swimmer from the same gender qualifies for the Games or receives a FINA invite based on his or her Olympic Selection time (B time).

Both the Indian swimmers, who will participate in the 100m backstroke event, have been nominated as they are the highest-ranked Indian swimmers in their respective genders. Srihari has 863 points and Maana 735 points.

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While Maana’s participation is confirmed as no other female swimmer has achieved the Olympic Selection time or ‘B’ cut, there is a chance Srihari may miss out on the Games.

Six Indian male swimmers, including Srihari himself, have achieved the ‘B’ cut and are vying for the ‘A’ standard this week. The last date to achieve the qualification time is June 27. If one of them clocks the ‘A’ standard the Universality spot will stand rescinded.

Srihari and Sajan Prakash, who represented India in the 2016 Rio Olympics, have come agonisingly close to breaching the ‘A’ mark recently.

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The duo will hope to make the cut in an Olympic qualifying event in Rome later this week.

No Indian swimmer has till date achieved the ‘A’ cut for the Olympics.

The nominations were communicated to FINA, the world body of aquatics, on June 20, which was the deadline, through the Indian Olympic Association (IOA).

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“In line with the FINA circular, SFI has nominated Srihari Nataraj and Maana Patel for the ‘Universality Places’ for one man & one woman respectively on the basis of the highest FINA points (in respective gender) achieved at FINA approved Olympic qualification events between 1 Mar 2019 to 20 June 2021 (deadline for nominations to Universality Place),” SFI Secretary General Monal Chokshi said in a statement.

“Srihari Nataraj and Maana Patel being the highest ranked basis their FINA points have been nominated for the ‘Universality Place’ in the respective gender,” he added.

Asian Games bronze medallist Virdhawal Khade, Aryan Makhija, Kushagra Rawat and Advait Page are the other swimmers who have achieved the ‘B’ standard and are vying for the Olympic qualification time.

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The Indian swimmers will be participating in qualification events at Rome and Los Angeles this week.

“We are still very hopeful that out of the eight Indian swimmers who have achieved the B qualification mark, at least two of them will make the A cut.

“The swimmers have improved their timings in Belgrade and we are expecting them to go faster in Rome,” stated SFI Executive Director Virendra Nanavati.

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