Classy Srihari looks to set pool ablaze in inaugural Khelo India School Games

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Karnataka’s Srihari Nataraj, named the best swimmer at the National Aquatics Championships 2017 in Bhopal, will be among the cream of country’s young swimming talent which will be on view in the first Khelo India School Games at the iconic Shyama Prasad Mukherjee Swimming Pool Complex here from February 1 to 4.

Srihari, who stands close to six-feet tall, has constantly broken barriers and seeks to go faster than anyone else, aiming to represent India in the Asian Games in Jakarta this year and the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo. In fact, the Jain College student from Bengaluru is the owner of all National records for backstroke over 50m (26.58 seconds), 100m (56.99) and 200m (2:04.11).

“I know that the best talent will get picked for handsome scholarships worth Rs 5 lakh each year for eight years but I am entering five events, including the 100m and 200m freestyle, for the race experience,” Srihari, who will turn 17 on January 16, said. “I want to show that I am the best each time I take to the pool.”

Karnataka’s Saloni Dalal, who lowered her own 200m breaststroke National Record to 2:43.01, is the other prominent swimmer who will compete in the Khelo India School Games.

The Dubai-based Tanish George Mathew (Indian High School), who won three gold in the SGFI National Championships 2017, will look forward to racing Srihari Nataraj in the 50m backstroke event and National junior silver medallist Neel Roy (Maharashtra) in the 50m butterfly event. His 200m butterfly battle with Padam Padam Birthare (Maharashtra) will also be eagerly watched.

Maharashtra’s Rayna Saldanha, who was adjudged the best under-17 girl swimmer in the National Junior Aquatics Championships 2017, and West Bengal’s Swadesh Mondal and Maharashtra’s Kenisha Gupta, the best under-14 swimmers in National Junior Aquatics Championships 2017 in Pune, will also be seen in action in the four-day swimming competitions in the pool.

Similarly, the girls 100m butterfly contest between Aastha Choudhary (Assam) and Tamil Nadu’s Priyanga Pughazarasu will be a good race. Maharashtra boys Vedant Bapna and Advait Page as well as girls like Mayuri Lingaraj (Karnataka), Firdoush Kayamkhani (Delhi), Rayna Saldanha and Anubhuti Baruah are also expected to be among the leading swimmers in the Games.

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