The 20-year-old secured a berth to the quadrennial event after FINA approved his A standard qualification in men’s 100m backstroke.

Within the space of a few days, the swimming fraternity in India rejoiced. After the brilliant performance from Sajan Prakash to achieve direct qualification to Tokyo 2020, another Indian swimmer joined him. Srihari Nataraj qualified for the Tokyo Olympics, by achieving the A qualification mark for the 100m backstroke event at a time trial held in Italy.

We take a look at five achievements by Srihari Nataraj, who is set to make his mark at the Tokyo Olympics.

Plenty of chances but no finished product

5. Youngest Indian swimmer to achieve the A qualification mark for the Olympics

Srihari Nataraj is the second Indian swimmer to secure a direct qualification to Tokyo Olympics. (Courtesy: Olympics)

Srihari became the youngest Indian swimmer to achieve the A qualification mark for the Olympics when he completed 100m backstroke in 53.77 seconds in a time trial at the Sette Coli Trophy held in Rome. The 20-year-old achieved this feat not long after Sajan Prakash’s qualification for the 200m butterfly event earlier.

He became only the second Indian swimmer to directly qualify for the quadrennial event. The timing was above the 53.85 mark set by FINA, who had to ratify the timings separately as the trial was conducted on request. Nevertheless, Srihari’s qualification will see three Indians feature in swimming events, as Maana Patel also secured an Olympics berth owing to the universality quota.

4. First Indian to reach the finals of the 2018 Youth Olympics

Srihari Nataraj became the first Indian to reach the final of the 2018 Youth Olympics that were held in Buenos Aires. He finished at the ninth spot in the heats of the 100m backstroke with a time of 56.75 seconds. He then produced another brilliant performance, improving to 56.48 seconds in the semifinals.

Nataraj finished ninth but qualified for the finals due to the withdrawal of Norwegian Tomoe Hvas. Nataraj again improved his time to 56.12 seconds but could only finish sixth.

3. Finalist in two events at the 2018 Asian Games

Srihari qualified for the finals of two different swimming events in the 2018 Asian Games held in Jakarta. The youngster put in impressive performances that belied his age to qualify for the finals in both 100m and 200m backstroke. He finished eighth in the 100m backstroke heats, completing it in 55.68 seconds. Although his timing decreased in the finals, he improved his standing.

Srihari finished seventh in the 100m finals with a time of 56.19 seconds. In the 200m backstroke heats, he finished seventh, completing it with a time of 2:02.97. Srihari improved in the finals, finishing sixth with a slightly better time of 2:02.83. The talented swimmer also competed in the 50m backstroke event but missed the finals by a small margin, finishing behind by 0.11 seconds.

2. Clinched four individual gold medals at the 2019 Senior National Aquatics

At the 2019 Senior National Aquatics, Nataraj broke national records in 50m, 100m and 200m backstroke. (Courtesy: Twitter)

Srihari has been a frequent sighting at international events for India. But his steady improvement and work ethic meant that he was a force to be reckoned with in the national event. In the 2019 Senior National Aquatics Championship, the youngster displayed his severe dominance with four individual gold medals. He also broke the national record during three of those victories. Srihari was specially inspiring in the backstroke event.

He broke the national records in 50m backstroke, 100m backstroke and 200m backstroke events before clinching three gold medals. He also won the gold in the 100m freestyle. The youngster also showed up for the Karnataka team bagging four more gold to take the tally to eight gold medals. A stellar exhibition by one of India’s best swimmers.

1. Reached the semifinals for two events at the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Australia

Srihari participated in the 2018 Commonwealth Games in three events. The youngster qualified for the semifinals for two of those events. Srihari finished ninth in the 50m backstroke heats while also finishing 15th in the 100m backstroke.

He improved his timing from 56.71 to 56.65 seconds in the 100m backstroke semi-finals. But only managed a 14th position finish, with the top eight qualifying for the medal bout. Srihari missed qualification to the finals of the 50m event by a mere 0.9 seconds. The Indian swimmer also competed in the 200m backstroke but finished 17th in the heats, thereby failing to qualify for the finals.

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