The 27-year-old became the first Indian swimmer to qualify directly for the quadrennial event.

With the Tokyo Olympics drawing nearer with each passing day, several top Indian athletes are putting in their maximum effort to make the cut. One of the successful ones is Sajan Prakash, who became the first swimmer to qualify directly for an Olympics, without the need for a nomination. Here we take a look at five highlights from Sajan’s career so far.

5. 2015 National Games medal sweep

The 2015 National Games held in Sajan’s home state of Kerala helped the young swimmer make a huge impact. The then 21-year-old dominated the pool throughout the duration of the event. He won six gold and two silver medals and was adjudged as the best athlete of the 2015 edition. He claimed the top step of the podium in the 100m and 200m butterfly events as well as the 400m, 800m, 1500m and 4 x100m freestyle categories.

The Idukki native also achieved silver in the 200m freestyle and the 4x100m medley. The games served as a huge platform for Sajan Prakash to announce himself to the rest of the country. His domination in the pool in Kerala earned several well-deserved plaudits and proved to be the ideal springboard for the rest of his career.

4. Silver medal in the 100m butterfly category at the 2017 Asian Indoor Games

Shortly after his National Games medal spree and Rio participation, Sajan Prakash took part in the 2017 Asian Indoor Games 100m butterfly. The short-course swimming event brought another medal for the Indian.

The Kerala native took the silver medal behind China’s Wang Peng. Sajan’s time of 51.97 seconds was 0.05 seconds ahead of Uzbek swimmer Artyom Kozlyuk. It also proved to be the only swimming medal India would clinch in the games held in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan.

3. First Indian swimmer to qualify for finals at the Asian Games in 200m butterfly in 32 years

Being part of history is not something new for Sajan Kumar. He produced an exemplary performance in the heats to qualify for the 200m butterfly finals at the 2018 Asian Games. In doing so, he had become the first Indian swimmer to reach the final of the event since Khajan Singh, won the silver medal at the 1986 Asiad held in Seoul. Sajan’s heats timing was good for third.

However, he only managed a fifth-placed finish in the final, despite having high hopes for a medal. He clocked 1:58.12 in the heats and 1:57.75 in the final. Despite the lack of a medal, it was a memorable performance by the talented Indian swimmer.

2. Participated at the 2016 Rio Olympics

Sajan Prakash was one of two swimmers that India had sent for the Rio Olympics based on the Universality Invitation from FINA. The then 22-year-old competed in his signature event, the 200m butterfly. Sajan took part in the first heat of the event and finished fourth among the five swimmers.

However, he wasn’t able to qualify for the semi-finals, as only the top 16 names were selected. Sajan finished 28th out of 29 eligible swimmers. However, based on his current timings, the Kerala native would have finished 12th in the heats. The Rio Olympics served as a good learning experience and Sajan will be looking to use it to improve in Tokyo.

1. First Indian swimmer to make the Olympic A cut

Sajan Prakash created history on June 26 when he became the first Indian swimmer to qualify for the Olympics by bettering the A qualification mark set by the organizers. The direct qualification meant that Sajan will become the first Indian swimmer not nominated by nation based on the Universality invitation from FINA.

The mark was set at 1:56.48 seconds in the 200m butterfly event. The Indian swimmer bettered it by 0.1 seconds in the Sette Colli Trophy held in Rome. The FINA-accredited Olympic qualifier saw the 27-year old-clock 1:56.38 seconds. Sajan also managed to better his national record time of 1:56.96 in the process.

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