The 24-year-old aims to compete in his second Olympics

With the 2012 Olympics little more than a year away, the focus will now shift to athletes' efforts to secure qualification, and be part of the national contingent. The qualification period for swimming events begins in March, and Bangalore's Rehan Poncha is confident of making the cut. “My personal best is already better than the time set by FINA (2:01.80s),” he says.

“I have clocked 2:00 in 2009, but I'll have to do it in a qualifying event now.” The 24-year-old, aiming to compete in his second Olympic Games, hopes to confirm his participation in the men's 200m butterfly event before the turn of the year.

“My aim will be to qualify as early as possible,” Poncha says. “Once that is out of the way, the pressure will be off and I can focus on bettering my time.” For Poncha, the next few months, leading up to qualifying competitions, will involve a lot of training. “I have to get fit outside the water. In the off-season I do a lot of cardio — either running or cycling — because it keeps me fitter in the pool. I also have to get strong in the gym,” he says.

Poncha is also considering returning to the University of Southern California, in Los Angeles, where he trained last year, to regain fitness. “I may train there again for two months,” he says.

With the first Olympic qualifier scheduled for May, Poncha will hope to qualify at an event in Asia, failing which he will attempt to do so in Europe. If Poncha does sew up qualification in his favourite event - the 200m butterfly - early enough, he may, he reveals, then attempt the individual medley.

The Arjuna award winner, who did not advance beyond the heats at the Beijing Olympics, says his ultimate aim is to make the semifinals at the London edition. “That will need me to clock at least 1:57.”

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Match PointJanuary 13, 2011