Srihari Nataraj touches Tokyo 'A' standard, awaits FINA nod

Srihari Nataraj. Srihari Nataraj

After he missed the Olympic qualifying mark by 0.05s in the 100m backstroke on Friday, 20-year-old Indian swimmer Srihari Nataraj redeemed himself with a 53.77s effort in a time trial at the Sette Colli Trophy in Rome, Italy on Sunday. The Olympic Qualifying Time for the event was 53.85.

Fellow Indian Sajan Prakash had earned a historic first 'A' mark in the 200m butterfly event on Saturday.

Nataraj's Tokyo entry, Swimming Federation of India (SFI) stated, will now be subject to world body FINA's approval.

Stating the example of the recent US Olympic team trials, SFI secretary general Monal Chokshi said, "It will be for FINA to accept the result from the time trial, as it is done routinely, like in the case of the US team trials for the 400m freestyle event. We are very excited with the A cuts achieved by both our swimmers and hope this result will be considered by FINA for Srihari to join Sajan Prakash as a direct qualification (A cut) entry for Tokyo 2020."

SFI, who'd earlier nominated Nataraj for a universality place, managed to push for a time trial for the Bengaluru swimmer on Sunday, which also marks the close of the Olympic swimming qualification period.This after his universality spot was ruled out following Sajan's automatic qualification.

For each individual Olympic event in swimming, the world body, FINA, lays down two entry standards - The 'A' standard or Olympic Qualifying Time (OQT) which is a faster, steeper cut-off compared to the Olympic Selection Time (OST) or 'B' standard. Swimmers who attain the 'A' standard are eligible for automatic qualification to the Games. Those who touch the slower 'B' cut will have to wait for FINA to distribute spots according to world rankings at the close of the qualification deadline, depending on how many of the total 878 quotas have already been filled. OST on its own, doesn't guarantee an Olympic spot. Six Indian swimmers including Srihari, have already achieved the 'B' standard.