Embattled swimmers hope to make a mark at CWG

It is a discipline which has never fetched India any medal in the Commonwealth Games and the swimmers are not exactly expected to create a splash even this time around with a dope slur and concerns about the venue`s preparedness.

Updated: Sep 12, 2010, 15:02 PM IST

New Delhi: It is a discipline which has
never fetched India any medal in the Commonwealth Games and
the swimmers are not exactly expected to create a splash even
this time around with a dope slur and concerns about the
venue`s preparedness adding to their woes ahead of the event.

Indian swimmers have never created much of a buzz at the
Commonwealth level given the competition in the pool features
powerhouses such as Australia, Canada and England among
others.

Australia has 557 medals at the Games and are expected to
rule the pool even this time.

Home advantage could have been factored in India`s favour
but the swimmers have hardly got a feel of the still
under-preparation Shyama Prasad Mukherjee Complex.

Swimming Federation of India (SFI) Secretary General
Virender Nanavati says there is nothing like home advantage
for the locals.

"What home advantage? Please don`t talk about any home
advantage," said Nanavati.

The Indian swimmers have only begun to get a hang of the
Complex in a camp that got underway a couple of days ago. And
this was because of delay in construction of the venue.

As if the delays were not enough, the Indian swimming
contingent suffered another major setback when three swimmers,
two of whom part of the Commonwealth Games squad -- Richa
Mishra and Jyotsana Pansare, tested positive for
methylhexaneamine, a stimulant banned by the World Anti-Doping
Agency (WADA) this year.

Nanavati, however, emphasised that Richa, an eight-time
national champion, had never been a medal-prospect for the
country.

"In any case, we never considered Richa Mishra and
Jyotsana Pansare as medal prospects for India in the CWG as in
the past also they could never do well for the country. So,
losing them is not exactly a concern," he said.

Another swimmer M B Balakrishnan suffered injuries after
being assaulted by yet-to-be identified persons, and there are
chances that he might also be ruled out of the October 3 to 14
event.

Even coaching and training of the swimmers for the Games
was not complete without controversy.

Nanavati complained that despite the SFI providing a list
of 12 coaches to the Sports Authority of India (SAI) and also
finalising the name of Australian Alan Thompson as chief
coach, SAI failed to strike a deal. This had not just left the
federation red-faced but also hampered India`s preparations
for the Games.

But internal matters are not the only obstacles standing
in India`s way of winning medals, there are bigger challenges
awaiting the national swimmers during the competition itself.

The dominant Australians, the ever-improving England and
even the South Africans are set to rule the podium.

Although three-time Olympic champion Stephanie Rice`s
pullout due to a shoulder injury and Ryan Napoleon`s doping
ban had weakened the Aussie squad a bit, but it still has the
potential to give its opponents a run for their money.
Australia`s triple Olympic champion Leisel Jones and former
world champion Geoff Huegill would lead a 52-strong swimming
contingent.

Swimming accounts for 127 medals and despite having some
improving bunch of swimmers led by Virdhawal Khade and Sandeep
Sejwal, it would be difficult for India to get on the medal
sheet but Nanavati wants to stay positive.

Nanavati has pinned his hopes on Sejwal, Aaron D`Souza,
Rehan Poncha and Khade to bring laurels for the country.

"On the basis of their past performances and the way they
are training at the moment and making efforts against all
odds, I am confident they will shine at the upcoming Games,"
insisted Nanavati.

PTI