Maana Patel Wants More International Exposure For Indian Swimmers To Bridge Gap With Others


Maana Patel was the only Indian female swimmer to have qualified for the Tokyo Olympics in 2021.

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Maana Patel represented India at the Tokyo Olympics. (Image: Instagram)

New Delhi: Post Tokyo Olympics, Indian swimming has been on the rise. But in reality, India still has a long way to go before it can put themselves at par with powerhouses like Australia, England and others countries.

Maana Patel, who was the only Indian female swimmer to have qualified for the Tokyo Olympics in 2021, believes they need more and more international exposure to cup the gap with their contemporaries from other countries.

“I think when you go out there and interact with the other swimmers and their coaches, you get a lot to learn about their preparation style and training method. I think one area where Indian is lacking is that we need more and more racing exposure abroad,” Maana told in an exclusive interview organised by ENGN, a talent representation company.

“The more you race, the more you get to know about yourself, the more you know about the race and how you are as an athlete,” added the Gujarat girl. In Tokyo, the 23-year-old crumbled under pressure to finish second in women’s 100m backstroke Heats and failed to make it to the semifinals.

According to the Swimming Federation of India (SFI) website, India’s 2023 international calendar starts with FINA World Championships (July) followed by World Aquatics Masters Championship (August), Youth Commonwealth Games (August), Asian Games (September), South Asian Games (November) and Asian Age Group Championships (December).

While these tournaments will definitely help the Indian swimmers gain experience, regional international competitions often helps the athletes to polish themselves.

‘Need Races Every Four Weeks’

Making her debut at the Olympics, Maana had clocked 1.05.20s behind Zimbabwe’s Donata Katai (1:02.73s). Unlike the swimmers from other countries, Indian swimmers don’t get a competitive races every month and urged the authorities to implement the same soon in India.

“Racing often gives you multiple chances to play around with your race and make strategies and see what works for you. I think as Indian swimmers, up until now, we haven’t really got the required amount of racing exposure.

“You know all these other swimmers, they race every four weeks. The biggest difference is that the way they train and prepare themselves for the big races. I think we should start implementing that in India soon,” she added.

Tokyo Show Changed Dynamics In India

Having said that, the scenario had changed a bit after India recorded their biggest swimming contingent at Olympics in Tokyo two years ago. Besides Maana, Srihari Nataraj and Sajan Prakash were the two other Indians swimmers on Tokyo pools.

“It has changed after the Tokyo Olympics where the government give us financial support when we propose them for an international race. Financially, all the costs are taken care off which is a big relief so that we can completely focus on our training.

“But I think a lot of technical input also has to go into it,” said Maana. Asked if India has top-level Indian coaches, the Gujarat Titans fans chose to keep a mum on the question. “I will skip this question right now. I will answer when time comes,” she said.

Although India didn’t fare well in Tokyo, the qualification of Maana, Nataraj and Prakash together in the highest pinnacle of sport has changed minds of a lot of budding swimmers to take the game seriously. Vedaant Madhavan is one such example.

“I think swimming is a important sport to learn and its a life-skill activity. I do find a lot of kids coming up to me and asking about my journey because they are intrigued and motivated too. So that makes me happy,” she added.

Target Asian Games Qualification

Competing at the Olympics is huge for any athlete, so it was for Maana. To be able to share common spaces with the best in business, Maana is much more stronger than before and not the ‘little scared girl’. She knows how to race now.

With Asian Games and Paris Olympics 2024 in the horizon, Maana prefers taking baby steps when it comes to setting targets and is largely focused on qualifying for the continental event later this year.

“I have always believed in taking baby steps. Right now I am set on qualifying for the Asian Games. For that I will be competing in Monaco (Mare Nostrum Swim Tour) in a two-day competition and then I will be at Senior Nationals in Hyderabad from July 2-5,” she informed.

Message To Budding Swimmers

Asked to give a message to the budding swimmers, Maana advised the youngsters to enjoy the process and not think of the outcome. “I just want to tell them that enjoy swimming and training. I do believe your success rate is higher when you are happy. Happy swimmer is the fast swimmer. Be disciplined, be determined and don’t cheat your practice,” she concluded.

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