He came with a big reputation and did not disappoint. Twenty-three year old Mandar A. Divase has been India’s best bet in long distance swimming and in the National aquatic championship, the SAF Games gold medallist came up with his career-best performance and best Indian performance while winning the gold in 800m freestyle event.
After setting the best Indian performance in 1500m freestyle in the World championships in Rome, it was natural that Mandar was the cynosure of all eyes before the start of the event.
The BSF sub inspector was in a league of his own as he clocked 8:23.08 shaving nearly eight seconds from his personal best.
“I was confident of breaking the record after my good show in the FINA World championship. I have been training hard since August for this meet,” he said.
Initially, Mandar was pushed hard by Karnataka’s A.P. Gagan who managed to keep pace with the BSF swimmer in the first half of the race. But Mandar pulled away with strong strokes and finished quite a distance ahead of Gagan.
“A little bit of credit for the record should go to Gagan as he pushed me really hard in the first half of the race,” he said.
Shifting base to Bangalore
Mandar, who hails from Kolhapur in Maharashtra, shifted his base to Bangalore after joining BSF in 2002.
Mandar currently trains under former Indian coach Pradeep Kumar at the Basavangudi Aquatic Club. “I was expecting Mandar to break the record. But there is still scope for improvement,” the coach said after the race.
Mandar, who set a personal best in 400m freestyle in the FINA World championships, will compete in eight events in the national championships.
“Long distance swimming is my forte and I am in good form,” he said. With the kind of form he is in one can expect Mandar to topple a few records during the course of this meet.