M.R. Praveen Chandran

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Rehan Poncha has struggled to translate his dominance on the domestic scene to performance at international meets.

He has had two forgettable Asian Games, in 2002 and 2006, and the initial expectation of someone winning an Asian Games medal after Khazan Singh still remains a promise.

Poncha, 21, who holds four National records, is modest enough to acknowledge this and considers the next three months as the crucial period of his career. Poncha, who won nine golds at the Guwahati National Games, is focussing his energies and ability to qualify for the Olympics.

Poncha will soon leave for Australia to take part in the Telstra aquatics meet in Sydney.

“I think tougher competition will push me. Here in India I am virtually unchallenged in some events,” he said.

Poncha’s opinion was echoed by his coach S. Pradeep Kumar. “I am in touch with Australian coach Bill Sweetenham. We are trying to squeeze in two months of training in Australia so that he would be in good form to take part in swimming events in the U.S. if he fails to make it at Telstra,” Pradeep said.

The coach feels that Poncha’s best chance is in the 200m IM where he is just 1.5 seconds shy of the qualifying mark. “Considering the progress he has made in the last one year during which he has cut three seconds in 200m IM he should be able to qualify for the Olympics by the end of July,” the coach said.

“Qualifying for the Olympics itself is an achievement as it makes Poncha a world class swimmer,” the coach said.

Poncha feels qualifying for the Olympics will be an important milestone in his career.

“He has the potential to win a medal in the 2010 Asian Games,” Pradeep said. For Poncha, it is about time he translates his potential into a medal.

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