The Indian Swimming Federation (SFI) declared on Thursday that Indian backstroker Maana Patel had qualified for the Tokyo Olympics under the universality quota.
M.P. Patel Olympic Games Tokyo 2020
These universality positions were proposed by Maana Patel and Srihari Nataraj. But Srihari met the Olympic Qualification Time (OQT), guaranteeing him a spot in the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.
For the first time ever, India will send three swimmers to the Summer Olympics to compete in their respective sports. Last month, Sajan Prakash made history by becoming the first Indian swimmer to qualify for the Olympic ‘A’ cut.
To be there this time, against the finest in the world, gives me chills.
The 21-year-old Maana was on the return road when competitions resumed earlier this year after suffering an ankle injury at the end of the 2019 season.
‘It was a challenging year to recover from the injuries,’ Maana said. Though the lockdown and subsequent illness were a blessing in disguise that aided my recovery, I eventually found myself growing frustrated by the whole ordeal. I have never been able to abstain from water for so long.
Maana Patel swam in her first competition of the year, the Uzbekistan Open Swimming Championships, in April, after spending two months preparing at the national camp in Bengaluru. There, she won the 100-meter backstroke in a world-record time of 1 minute, 4.47 seconds.
The timing of my trip to Uzbekistan was perfect. “Nothing spectacular,” Maana declared. However, finishing in 1:04 after returning to competitive racing was a positive sign. The path I was taking was the right one.
Maana Patel only had ten days to prepare for her European trip, which included the Belgrade Trophy in Serbia and the Sette Colli Trophy in Italy, after the second round of COVID-19 in India.
Regardless, in Belgrade she broke the national record for her favourite event, the 100-meter backstroke.
One thing I was certain of was that I would not waste any chance that presented itself. When it came to my time, I was well prepared. To prevent overeating, I restricted my intake. ‘I didn’t want to take any chances,’ Maana explained. I ran a 1:03 in Belgrade, but I want to break a minute in Tokyo.
For me, the main reason for coming to the Olympics is to swim in the competition. There is a lot riding on the 2023 campaign for us. The Asian and Commonwealth Games present me with a great opportunity to earn a medal,” Maana said.