Srihari Nataraj rewrites national record en route gold at Uzbekistan Open swimming

Srihari Nataraj set a new men's 100m backstroke national record in Uzbekistan and took his personal best closer to the Olympic qualification A standard time. 

By Utathya Nag

Indian swimmer Srihari Nataraj clinched the gold medal in the men’s 100m backstroke event at the Uzbekistan Open Swimming Championship 2021 in Tashkent on Thursday after rewriting his own national record twice in the same day.

The 20-year-old Nataraj registered his personal best of 54.10 seconds – a new 100m men’s backstroke swimming national record - during the heats. In the finals, he improved marginally, registering 54.07 seconds to win gold ahead of Turkmenistan's Merdan Atayev.

Both his timings brought him closer to the 53.85 seconds cut off mark - the Olympic Qualifying Time (A standard) for Tokyo.

Srihari Nataraj clocked 54.69 seconds – his previous personal best and the national record - at the FINA World Junior Swimming Championships in Budapest in 2019 to breach the Olympic Qualifying Time (B Standard) set at 55.47 seconds.

The Indian swimmer, however, still needs to achieve the A standard timing to directly qualify for the Tokyo Olympics.

“We have all been super excited with Srihari's time. 54.10 seconds was Atlanta Olympics gold medal time and this time would have also fetched him a bronze at Asian Games 2018,” Swimming Federation of India (SFI) said in a statement.

Sajan Prakash, meanwhile, won his third straight gold medal in Uzbekistan after claiming top honours in the men’s 400m freestyle event with a timing of 3:56.03 seconds.

The women’s 400m freestyle event saw another Indian gold medallist emerge as Shivani Kataria finished her race in 4:38.05 seconds.

Chahat Arora, in the women's 100m breaststroke event, claimed the gold medal after finishing in 1:16.05 seconds.

Maana Patel, in the women's 100m backstroke, also secured first place clocking 1:04.47 seconds. Fellow Indian swimmer Suvana Baskar won the silver medal.

In the men’s 100m breaststroke, India’s Likith Selvaraj Prema and Danush S clinched silver and bronze respectively, finishing behind local hero Vladislav Mustafin.