Sajan Prakash and Srihari Nataraj have been the two male swimmers from India who have consistently managed to reach finals at global-level competitions in recent years, but a new swimming sensation is set to steal the thunder at the 2023 Asian Games – 19-year-old Aryan Nehra.
The middle distance swimmer, who has trained in the USA and has been part of the collegiate team in Florida, has broken the 800m national record this year. He wants to be the first Indian swimmer to dip under 8 minutes. If he does that, he is almost guaranteed a place in the final and could even be fighting for a medal.
Butterfly swimmer Sajan Prakash is the other Indian male swimmer who is expected to make the finals and be fighting for medals. Aryan and Sajan are the two swimmers across the men’s and women’s contingents from India with the best medal prospects at the Hangzhou Asian Games.
The last Asiad medal won by India in Swimming was by Sandeep Sejwal in 2014. The only gold medal was won as far back as 1951.
Swimming is a sport which is mostly dominated by countries like USA, Australia and Great Britain, but Asian swimming standards are also rising year by year.
In the year 2001, only 11 World Championship medals came to Asia, divided among two Asian countries. At this year’s Worlds, 20 medals came to Asia, divided among four Asian countries.
Indian Male Swimmers at the 2023 Asian Games
The Swimming Federation of India (SFI) selected 12 male swimmers based on their timings. The 12-member contingent has experienced swimmers like Sajan Prakash, 2010 Asiad medalist Virdhawal Khade, and also rising names like Aryan Nehra and Kushagra Rawat.
Indian Men’s Swimming Contingent: Aneesh Gowda (4*100m Freestyle), Advait Page (1500M Freestyle), Aryan Nehra (800m Freestyle), Anand AS( 4*100m Medley), Kushagra Rawat (400m Freestyle), Likith SP (100m Breaststroke), Sajan Prakash (200m Butterfly), Srihari Nataraj (200m Freestyle), Tanish George Mathew (100m Freestyle), Utkarsh Patil (100m Backstroke), Vishal Grewal (100m freestyle), Virdhawal Khade (50m Freestyle).
Medal chances, predicted rankings in Men’s swimming
Aryan Nehra | 800m Freestyle | PB:-8:00:76 | AR:-7:32:12 | Possible Finish: 4th to 6th
Aryan is just 19 years old and continuously rising. He just touched the 4-year-old national record of Advait Page at the 2023 World Championships. He finished as the third best Asian at the Worlds and now has the fifth best Asian timing this year in 800m freestyle. Aryan could be a medal contender at the Asian Games if he can replicate his Worlds performance and even get India’s first under-8 minutes timing in this event.
Sajan Prakash | 200m Butterfly | PB:-1:56:38 | AR:-1:52:53 | Possible Finish: 5th to 7th
National record holder in 200m butterfly, Sajan Prakash is one of the best Indian swimmers and one of the favourites to qualify for the final. He finished as the eighth Asian in the 2023 World Championships with a season-best timing of 1:58:07. Sajan can be a medal contender at Hangzhou if he can break or touch his two-year-old national record.
Srihari Natraj | 200m Freestyle | PB:-1:49:73 | AR:-1:44:39 | Possible Finish: 6th to 8th
Srihari Natraj recently equalled the Sajan’s NR in 200m freestyle at the World University Games. He currently has the 10th best Asian time in this event and would have finished as the eighth best Asian in the 2023 World Championships with his season-best timing of 1:49:73. Srihari Natraj needs to create one more NR to finish in the top 8 at Asian Games.
Virdhawal Khade | 50m Freestyle | PB:-22:43 | AR:-21:67 | Possible Finish: 8th to 10th
Virdhawal Khade is the only Indian player in the contingent to have a previous Asian Games medal. Going for his fourth Asiad, Khade will aim to double his Asian Games medal tally in Hangzhou. His season best timing of 22.82 in men’s 50m is the 10th best timing in Asia this year. Can Virdhawal pull off another under-23 seconds timing to qualify for the final.
Kushagra Rawat | 400m Freestyle | PB:-3:52:75 | AR:-3:40:14 | Possible Finish: 8th to 10th
Kushagra Rawat finished the 2023 World Championships as the 6th best Asian with a timing of 3:59:03. He is currently the eighth best Asian swimmer in terms of season-best timings with 3:56:07 in 400m Freestyle. Kushagra could finish in top 5 if he can better his three-year-old personal best timing.
Advait Page | 1500m Freestyle | PB:-15:23:66 | AR:-14:31:02 | Possible Finish: 10th -11th
Advait Page is the NR-holder in men’s 1500m freestyle, which he clocked in 2021. His personal best timing is the 8th best among Asian season best timings, though his own season best timings of 15:32:36 is the 11th in Asia this year. Advait need to touch his personal best to have a chance of a top 6 finish.
Featured Image: SwimSwam