Maana Patel wants to soak in the ‘experience’ of an Olympics at Tokyo 2020

The Indian backstroker has made the Olympic grade under the universality quota. Maana Patel will be the third Indian swimmer to compete at Tokyo 2020.

By Naveen Peter
Picture by Maana Patel/ Instagram

Indian backstroker Maana Patel booked her place at the Tokyo Olympics under the universality quota on Thursday, the Swimming Federation (SFI) of Indian has confirmed.

Maana Patel and Srihari Nataraj were nominated for the universality slots. Srihari, however, achieved the Olympic Qualification Time (OQT) to secure a direct place at Tokyo 2020.

India will now have three swimmers competing in their respective events at the Summer Games for the first time in history. Sajan Prakash was the first Indian swimmer to achieve the Olympic ‘A’ cut last month.

“It’s an amazing feeling. I have heard about the Olympics from fellow swimmers and watched it on the tele and seen a lot of pictures,” Maana Patel told Olympics.com.

“But to be there this time, competing with the best in the world, just gives me goosebumps.”

Having injured her ankle towards the end of the 2019 season, the 21-year-old Maana was on a comeback trail when competitions resumed earlier this year.

“It was a tough year to come back after the injury,” Maana admitted. “Though the pandemic and the lockdown was a blessing in disguise as it helped me recuperate well, but then later the frustration crept in. I am not used to staying away from the water for this long.”

After a two-month training at the national camp in Bengaluru, Maana Patel competed in her first event of the year at the Uzbekistan Open Swimming Championships in April. There she clocked 1:04.47 seconds for the gold medal in the 100m backstroke.

“I was happy with my timing in Uzbekistan. Nothing great,” Maana said. “But to get back into competitive racing and managing 1:04 was good. I knew I was on the right track.”

Post the second wave of COVID-19 in India, however, Maana Patel could squeeze in only 10 days of training before her European tour that included the Belgrade Trophy in Serbia and the Sette Colli Trophy in Italy.

Nevertheless, she set a national record in her pet event, the 100m backstroke, in Belgrade.

“One thing that I ensured was that I wanted to make the most of every opportunity. I had my schedule organised. My intake was controlled. I didn’t want to leave anything to chance,” Maana said. “I clocked 1:03 at Belgrade, the target is to go 1:02 or lower in Tokyo.

“I am not looking for much here, just the experience of swimming at the Olympics. The 2023 season is an important year for us. I see the Commonwealth Games and the Asian Games as a real opportunity for a podium finish,” Maana reckoned.

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