Agencies, New Delhi
Srihari Nataraj and Saloni Dalal, both National record holders, and Swadesh Mondal, Vedant Bapna, Advait Page are among a host of wonderful swimmers who will be battling for 35 gold medals in the Dr Shyama Prasad Mookherjee Swimming pool at the inaugural Khelo India School Games here.
Swimming is part of the 16-discipline event and is expected to produce a high level of competition. Rayna Saldanha, Kenisha Gupta, Astha Choudhary, Priyanga Pughazarasu, Mayuri Lingaraj, Firdoush Kayamkhani and Anubhuti Baruah are other swimmers expected to make a splash with eye-catching performances.
“We are excited that there has been a wonderful response from across the country for the flagship event, the inaugural Khelo India School Games,” Union Minister of Youth Affairs and Sports Col. Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore said on the commencement of the Games that run till February 8.
Srihari Nataraj holds national records in all three backstroke races – 50m, 100m and 200m. The Karnataka boy, who will be representing Jai Hind College (Bengaluru), was adjudged the best male swimmer in the competition as he led his State to the overall championship on his way to four gold and three meet records.
A fan of swimming great Michael Phelps – unsurprisingly – Srihari, says he wants to make his own mark and his eyes are set on the Youth Olympics to be held in Buenos Aires in November this year, and the Tokyo Olympics of 2020 thereafter. His long-term goal is to win a medal in the 2024 Olympics in Paris.
Karnataka will have strong representation with Saloni Dalal also looking to better her own National record in the 200m breaststroke event. Saloni was the youngest medal winner in the 2015 National Games in Kerala when she got bronze in her event at the age of 12, and has only risen in stature since then, beating her own National record twice already.
Representing PKD Matric Higher Secondary School, Saloni Dalal is wary of her opponent Liana Fathema who could put up a good fight and ruin her chances of a great result.
Saloni Dalal also idolises Michael Phelps and with the kind of hard work that she is currently putting in under the guidance of Prakash Arumugam looks to fancy her chances of making to the 2020 and 2024 Olympic Games.
Mondal is the Under-14 ace with five National gold medals and records in 200m IM (2:15:46), 200m butterfly (2:28:28) and 400m IM (4:49:58).
He has made rapid strides. Hailing from the small town of Champahati in rural Bengal, Mondal chose the SAI training academy in New Delhi over Kolkata with an eye on better facilities and has trained under head coach Partha Pratim Majumder.
Sports personalities, legends laud Khelo India
The first Khelo India School Games (KISG), which was declared open by Prime Minister Narendra Modi at a glittering opening ceremony on Wednesday at the Indira Gandhi Indoor Stadium, here in the capital has elicited strong support from a galaxy of India’s top sports stars.
Legends like PT Usha, Bhaichung Bhutia, Vijender Singh and iconic para-athlete Deepa Malik were among those who lauded the efforts made by the Ministry of Youth Affairs & Sports led by Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore and feel that the initiative will strengthen the system right from spotting talent to grooming and will benefit the country in the years to come.