Indian woman swimmer Maana Patel’s participation in the Tokyo Olympics has been confirmed through ‘Universality quota’, the Swimming Federation of India (SFI) said.
Maana will take part in the 100m backstroke at the Tokyo Games and is the third Indian swimmer to have qualified after both Srihari Nataraj and Sajan Prakash achieved Olympic Qualification Timing (OQT) ‘A’ level recently.
The Universality quota allows one male and one female competitor from a country to participate in the Olympics, provided no other swimmer from the same gender qualifies for the Games or receives a FINA invite based on his or her Olympic Selection time (B time).
“It’s an amazing feeling. I have heard about the Olympics from fellow swimmers and watched it on the television and seen a lot of pictures,” Maana told Olympics.com.
“But to be there this time, competing with the best in the world, just gives me goosebumps.”
The 21-year-old sustained an ankle injury in 2019 and only made a comeback 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.”
Her first event of the year was Uzbekistan Open Swimming Championships in April, where she clocked 1:04.47 seconds for the gold medal in the 100m backstroke.
“I was happy with my timing in Uzbekistan. Nothing great. But to get back into competitive racing and managing 1:04 was good. I knew I was on the right track.”
She had recently taken part in events in Serbia and Italy as a tune up for the Tokyo Games.
At the Belgrade event, she bettered her national mark in the 100m backstroke.
“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.”
With Universality quota which is not even the ‘B’ qualifying mark, Maana knows that Olympics for her is more about gaining experience.
“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.