Veteran Richa faces challenge from gen-next in the National Games swimming events

Eighteen-year-old Shrungi Bandekar, who was the star of the recent Khelo India University Games, will be Richa’s main rival

October 01, 2022 07:19 pm | Updated 07:19 pm IST

Richa Mishra wins 400m Medley gold at the 75 senior National Aquatic championship in Guwahati on Wednesday, 07, September, 2022.

Richa Mishra wins 400m Medley gold at the 75 senior National Aquatic championship in Guwahati on Wednesday, 07, September, 2022. | Photo Credit: RITU RAJ KONWAR

The past, present, and future of Indian swimming have assembled to make the field competitive when the aquatic events of the 36th National Games gets underway at the Sardar Patel Aquatic complex here on Sunday.

Nothing can be more contrasting than the presence of 39-year-old Richa Mishra, taking part in her sixth National Games, and a bevy of teenage national champions who were not even born when Richa took part in her first National Games in 1997. 

Fresh from winning the gold in 400m medley in the senior nationals, Richa is still hungry and keen to add more medals to her collection. 

Richa’s main rival will be the 18-year-old Shrungi Bandekar who was the star of the recent Khelo India University Games. 

Shrungi will be looking for revenge, and treat her loss to Richa at the nationals an aberration when the two generations square off again here.

The young Astha Choudhary of Assam, the national record holder in 100m butterfly, is another promising swimmer who is set to corner all the attention in the Games.

On her home turf, Olympian Maana Patel will be looking to set the pool on fire in the backstroke events. Maana, who won three individual golds in the recent National championships, will spearhead host Gujarat’s challenge and will be hoping to add more gold medals to her kitty in this meet.

Maana Patel flashes the victory sign after the women’s 200m backstroke event at the 75th senior National Aquatic Championships, at the Zakir Husain Aquatic Complex in Guwahati, Wednesday, Sept. 7, 2022.

Maana Patel flashes the victory sign after the women’s 200m backstroke event at the 75th senior National Aquatic Championships, at the Zakir Husain Aquatic Complex in Guwahati, Wednesday, Sept. 7, 2022. | Photo Credit: PTI

Sajan Prakash, Sreehari Nataraj, Advait Page and Kushagra Rawat in the recent past have played their part in increasing the general standards of men’s swimming in India.

Sajan will be hoping to relive some of the greatest moments of his career again here in Rajkot. Sajan was the toast of the Kerala National Games when he won six gold medals in 2015.

Sajan Prakash competes in the men’s 200m butterfly heats on day three of the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games at Sandwell Aquatics Centre on July 31, 2022.

Sajan Prakash competes in the men’s 200m butterfly heats on day three of the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games at Sandwell Aquatics Centre on July 31, 2022. | Photo Credit: Getty Images

As a one-man army from Kerala, the 29-year-old will be taking part in as many events as possible to boost the medal tally of his home state.

Sreehari Nataraj’s fifth place finish in 50m backstroke in the Commonwealth Games has underlined his growing stature, and the Bengaluru swimmer will be keen to live up to the expectations here.

Kushagra Rawat, winner of the men’s 1500m freestyle, at the 74th senior National Aquatic Championships 2021, held at Basavanagudi swimming pool, in Bengaluru on October 28, 2021.  

Kushagra Rawat, winner of the men’s 1500m freestyle, at the 74th senior National Aquatic Championships 2021, held at Basavanagudi swimming pool, in Bengaluru on October 28, 2021.   | Photo Credit: MURALI KUMAR K

The Advait-Kushagra face off will make the long distance swimming interesting. Upcoming swimmer Vedaant Madhavan will be testing the water against the best in business. S. Siva, triple gold medallist at the recent Nationals, is another swimmer to watch out for.

Traditional powers Karnataka, Maharashtra will look to extend their domination in the pool, though host Gujarat will try to put its best effort to garner more medals.

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