Indian swimming on Monday made Commonwealth Games history when the quartet of Virdhawal Khade, Anshul Kothari, Arjun Jayaprakash and Aaron D’Souza finished sixth to make the cut in men’s 4x100m freestyle relay.
India also qualified for the semifinals when Badrinath Melkote (men’s 50m backstroke) and Shubha Chittaranjan (women’s 50m butterfly) finished 14th and 16th in their respective events.
Led by its biggest hope, Khade, the Indian team clocked 3:28.06s at the Dr Shyama Prasad Mukherjee Aquatics Complex to make its maiden cut in the event.
Excited at the results, national chief coach S Pradeep Kumar said that the boys have made history.
“This is really fantastic. We have made history by reaching the final for the first time in Commonwealth competition,” Pradeep told PTI .
Realistically, he said, it would be tough in the final, scheduled as the day’s last event.
“Our timing is not good enough to earn a podium finish. It will be difficult in the final. However, we should aim for a fourth-place finish, which will be good for the relay team.”
Timing wise, the Indian quartet finished 12.87s behind preliminary round toppers — the Australian team of Kyle Morgan Richardson, Cameron Colin Prosser, James Magnussen and Tommaso William D’Orsogna.
The Aussies swam 3:15.18s to top the prelims ahead of Englishmen (Ross Paul Davenport, Simon Andrew Burnett, Grant Turner and Adam Thorp Brown) who clocked 3:17.60.
The South Africans (Darian Roy Townsend, Chad Guy Dertrand Le Clos, Gideon Abraham Louw and Graeme John Moore) finished third with a timing of 3:18.94s.
It will be an interesting final when the South African 4x100m freestyle relay team — the defending Commonwealth Games Champions and the 2004 Olympic gold medallists — take the pool in the evening.
The team, incidentally, will be bolstered by Olympian and 50m freestyle world record holder Roland Schoeman in the final.
The youngest Indian to qualify for Beijing Olympics 2008, at 15 years, Khade was the best among the Indian quartet as he swam with 50.71s — more than two seconds shy of James Magnussen (48.24s) of Australia, the best among the qualifiers.
Melkote clocked 27.52 in lane two to finish 14th in the men’s 50m backstroke in which England’s world record holder Liam Tancock was the fastest in the heats with 25.47.
The spearhead of the Australian team, Emily Seebohm, who will contest in eight events here, was in total control this to top lane 4.
She set the fastest time in 50m butterfly heats (26.52sec), ahead of world champion Marieke Guehrer (26.64sec) as the Aussies took the top two places.
Seebohm also won the 200m individual medley final and 50m butterfly semifinals. In the first heats (women’s 200m freestyle) held at the new aquatic centre, Australians Kylie Palmer (1:58.71) and national champion Blair Evans (1:59.25) qualified first and second for the final.
But the pair is expected to face a strong challenge from English stars Rebecca Adlington (1:59.68) and Jo Jackson (1:59.33), who also went through, finishing sixth and fourth respectively.
India’s Surbahi Tipre (2:09.82s) and Arti Ghorpade (2:12.20) finished a disappointing 22nd and 24th to end their campaign.
In men’s 400m freestyle heats, Mandar Divase (4:06.02) and Ullalmath Gangan (4:06.29s) finished a lowly 17th and 18th, respectively.
Other Indians to bow out on day one included Beijing Olympian Rehan Poncha and Tarun Tokas (men’s 200m butterfly); Priyanka Priyadarshini, Poorva Shetye and Mankiran Kaur (women’s 50m breaststroke); and Pooja Alva (women’s 200m IM).
Poncha (2:04.20) was 17th while Tokas (2:14.09) finished a lowly 20th in heats. Priyanka (35.43) was the best among the Indian trio in women’s 50m breaststroke, despite a disappointing 21st-place finish.
Priyanka’s teammates Poorva (36.41) and Mankiran (36.74) finished 24th and 25th respectively. Pooja clocked 2:32.11 for a heartbreaking last-place finish in her event.