Dubai: Pradeep Kumar, the Indian swimming coach and a Dronacharaya Award winner, is confident the Indian swimmers landing in Dubai shortly will be able to live up to expectations and secure their spots to next year’s 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Late on Monday, India announced that at least three of its leading swimmers who aim to compete at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics would be flying out to Dubai for two months of training at the Aqua Nation Sports Academy situated in the Al Jaddaf area of Dubai.
As the head coach and CEO of Aqua Nation Sports Academy, overseeing training of swimmers is nothing new to Pradeep Kumar having coached more than 8,000 swimmers in a career spaning more than three decades.
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“It will be an absolute pleasure to have these top-class Indian swimmers training with us. It’s going to be a win-win situation for all of us. The swimmers can look forward to getting some real training after being away from the water for so many months and our youngsters can also benefit from their presence here,” Pradeep Kumar told Gulf News.
“I have trained these Indian swimmers in the past, and getting them onboard here wouldn’t be too much of a task as we already have a rapport with them,” he added.
A former Olympian and top-level coach, Pradeep Kumar has had some top talent coming through ANSA including aspiring Olympian Tanish George Mathew.
The Sports Authority of India (SAI) earlier announced that freestyle swimmer Virdhawal Khade, 100-metre backstroke specialist Srihari Nataraj and 400m freestyle swimmer Kushagra Rawat would all be landing in Dubai for at least two months of training.
India has allowed opening up of some sports facilities, but swimming pools still remain closed - pushing a top athlete like Khade to announce in June that he was considering retirement due to limitations on his preparation for the Tokyo Games.
While announcing the external camp for the three swimmers, Swimming Federation of India (SFI) General Secretary Monal Chokshi was sympathetic towards a few more athletes who were just outside the ‘B’ standard.
“The Dubai camp is for Olympic B qualifiers who are in India and currently unable to train. It will be a 60-day camp in Dubai, but if pools in India don’t open in 60 days, SAI might extend it,” the SFI statement said.
At least, six Indian swimmers had achieved the B qualification times for Tokyo before the COVID-19 pandemic forced a suspension of their preparations in March. Khade, Nataraj and Rawat have all posted a ‘B’ time, which is good enough to see them compete at the Olympics. However, it is the A standard that would guarantee India certain places in Tokyo.
“We will first need to work on the basics. Unlike other sports that are played on land, swimming is a sport that is on the water. So to get them back and engage them in the water would be the most immediate priority once they get here,” he said.
“After that we will need to get their fitness levels up. By then, we would expect things to return back to normal in India,” he hoped.
Other B qualifiers are Sajan Prakash (200m butterfly), who will not attend as he is currently based in Thailand, while 800m freestyle duo Aryan Makhija and Advait Bage have already begun practicing in the US earlier this month.