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Embattled swimmers hope to make a mark at CWG

Source: PTI
September 12, 2010 18:18 IST

It is a discipline which has never fetched India any medal in the Commonwealth Games and the swimmers are not exactly expected to create a splash even this time around with a dope slur and concerns about the venue's preparedness adding to their woes ahead of the event.

Indian swimmers have never created much of a buzz at the Commonwealth level given the competition in the pool features powerhouses such as Australia, Canada and England among others.

Australia has 557 medals at the Games and are expected to rule the pool even this time.

Home advantage could have been factored in India's favour but the swimmers have hardly got a feel of the still under-preparation Shyama Prasad Mukherjee Complex.

Swimming Federation of India (SFI) Secretary General Virender Nanavati says there is nothing like home advantage for the locals.

"What home advantage? Please don't talk about any home advantage," said Nanavati.

The Indian swimmers have only begun to get a hang of the Complex in a camp that got underway a couple of days ago. And this was because of delay in construction of the venue.

As if the delays were not enough, the Indian swimming contingent suffered another major setback when three swimmers, two of whom part of the Commonwealth Games squad – Richa Mishra and Jyotsana Pansare, tested positive for methylhexaneamine, a stimulant banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) this year.

Nanavati, however, emphasised that Richa, an eight-time national champion, had never been a medal-prospect for the country.

"In any case, we never considered Richa Mishra and Jyotsana Pansare as medal prospects for India in the CWG as in the past also they could never do well for the country. So, losing them is not exactly a concern," he said.

Another swimmer M B Balakrishnan suffered injuries after being assaulted by yet-to-be identified persons, and there are chances that he might also be ruled out of the October 3 to 14 event.

Even coaching and training of the swimmers for the Games was not complete without controversy.

Nanavati complained that despite the SFI providing a list of 12 coaches to the Sports Authority of India (SAI) and also finalising the name of Australian Alan Thompson as chief coach, SAI failed to strike a deal. This had not just left the federation red-faced but also hampered India's preparations for the Games.

But internal matters are not the only obstacles standing in India's way of winning medals, there are bigger challenges awaiting the national swimmers during the competition itself.

The dominant Australians, the ever-improving England and even the South Africans are set to rule the podium.

Although three-time Olympic champion Stephanie Rice's pullout due to a shoulder injury and Ryan Napoleon's doping ban had weakened the Aussie squad a bit, but it still has the potential to give its opponents a run for their money.

Australia's triple Olympic champion Leisel Jones and former world champion Geoff Huegill would lead a 52-strong swimming contingent.

Swimming accounts for 127 medals and despite having some improving bunch of swimmers led by Virdhawal Khade and Sandeep Sejwal, it would be difficult for India to get on the medal sheet but Nanavati wants to stay positive.

Nanavati has pinned his hopes on Sejwal, Aaron D'Souza, Rehan Poncha and Khade to bring laurels for the country.

"On the basis of their past performances and the way they are training at the moment and making efforts against all odds, I am confident they will shine at the upcoming Games," insisted Nanavati.

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