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Swimmer Ullalmath realistic of chances at Olympics

July 22, 2012 15:18 IST

Aware that only a miracle will hand him a medal at the Olympics, India's lone participant in swimming, Gagan Ullalmath sees his London Games exposure as a platform to do well in the 2014 Asian Games.

Ullalmath said he does not want to be over ambitious but at the same time is determined to give his best and better his personal best of 15:59.33 that had earned him a silver at the Asian age group championship in Jakarta last year.

Gagan Ullalmath"I know it's a big field. But I'm not nervous. No matter what, I will give my best and hope to make the best use of the exposure. It's a huge leap and not realistic to reach to the level of the top Olympic swimmers so soon," Ullalmath said.

"I would be really happy if I go under 15:20 before the 2014 Asian Games to give a shot at the top three finish at Incheon (South Korea)," he said.

"We lack in physique but with good exposure we are improving. It's not the same what it used to be five years ago. I hope we will be up there among the top countries in 8-10 years time," he added.

The 20-year-old from Bangalore got a surprise entry to the Olympics when he was given a berth under 'Universality' quota in the men's 1500m freestyle event. His best timing though does not even figure in the top 300 of the latest FINA rankings in men's 1500m freestyle.

He received the opportunity ahead of more well-known swimmers Viradhwal Khade (100m freestyle), Sandeep Sejwal (100m and 200m breaststroke), Aaron D'souza (200m freestyle) and Saurabh Sangvekar (1500m freestyle), who missed out the London bus despite attaining Olympic selection timing.

For Ullalmath, who gave up engineering to pursue swimming, it's a dream come true as he is looking forward to meet his idols -- the US duo of Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte.

"I now think the brave decision I took of not joining engineering was right. Every year, many become engineers but only a handful go on to represent the country at the Olympics ever four years," Ullalmath said.

"It also gives me an opportunity to meet my idols -- Phelps and Lochte," said Ullalmath who had clinched six gold medals and two bronze medals at the Jharkhand National Games last year.

Ullalmath was obviously overjoyed when he got the berth under the new rule.

"I was totally shocked and surprised. I never thought that I will get a berth by this way. We have been preparing for months to achieve the Olympic qualification timing. But I never thought that I would get a chance this way," he said.

National coach Pradeep Kumar Sreedharan said it was unfortunate that four of Indian top swimmers missed out because of the "strange" rule.

"The European countries benefited by this rule. In the pool of 900, there's only representation of about 105 swimmers from Asia that includes about 70 from China and Japan. The new rule -- which was earlier known wild entry -- is quite complex," he said.

"There's big divide, we will be really happy if Ullalmath clocks his best," said Sreedharan who is accompanying Ullalmath to London.

Ullalmath's event is scheduled on August 3 and the duo are leaving for London on Monday.

Photograph: Lintao Zhang / Getty Images

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