Sajan Prakash hopes to raise profile of Indian swimming

Sajan Prakash during the Budapest 2017 FINA World Championships. Lukasz Laskowski / Press Focus

GOLD COAST, Australia -- Sajan Prakash hopes his Commonwealth Games performances will inspire the next generation of Indian swimmers, whom he hopes to one day mentor when he steps out of the pool for good.

Prakash finished eighth in the final of the men's 200m butterfly in Gold Coast on Saturday night, but was ecstatic with a personal best time from the morning heats. Prakash wasn't even due to race the final, only finding out he was in the field less than four hours before the starting gun.

"It was a morning swim, sometimes you don't get your best in that," Prakash told ESPN. "But I got my personal best in that and I was seeded ninth and I thought nobody was going to back out. But then I got to know at four o'clock [that he was in the final]. I swum my best time [in the morning] so I'm not happy but I'm not sad either."

Prakash represented India at the 2016 Olympics in Rio, the 24-year-old from Katala having been inspired by American great Michael Phelps. He cherishes that experience from Brazil, and hopes one day to help other young Indians reach their goal of going to the OIympics, in swimming, hopefully.

"That's what we are trying to do, we are trying to improve the standard of the sport," he told ESPN. "One day, if everything goes well, I want to take up coaching and give back to the sport."

At just 24, a stint on the pool deck, whistle and clipboard in hand, will have to wait. He still has a couple of events to go in Gold Coast, before the Asian Games and then, further down the track, the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, await.

"I've trained for mostly the 100 and 200 fly, it's been a long time since I've swum the 1500m," he said of his remaining events in Australia. "But I think I still have the endurance and I will try to better my time."

On his longer-term goals, Prakash added: "The short-term goal is the Asian Games but the long term is the Olympic Games; I'm under the FINA scholarship now and back with my coach in Dubai so we'll keep working to both of those goals."

And what does he think of the Gold Coast?

"I like it so much, but I don't have time to look around. I leave the next day after my unit [schedule]."