It was curtains for the Indian swimming contingent's Olympics 2021 campaign as Sajan Prakash failed to qualify for the men's 100m butterfly event semifinals. He finished second in Heat 2 with a timing of 53.45 seconds, which was not enough for him to make it to the top 16.
Sajan Prakash, competing in his second Olympic Games, started the race at a slow pace and was sixth at the halfway mark. He completed the first 50 meters in 25 seconds. Ghana's Abeku Jackson was in the lead by then, followed by Steven Aimable from Senegal and Abbas Qali from Kuwait in second and third respectively.
Sajan Prakash's second-half surge
However, Prakash hit the accelerator in the second half of the race. He managed to finish the next 50 meters in 28.45 seconds - fastest in the heat - and secured second spot. He narrowly missed his personal best of 53.27 seconds set in June this year.
As the heats progressed, it became clear that the timing of 53.45 seconds was not going to be enough to land Prakash in the semifinals. Most swimmers in the following heats managed to go below the 52-second mark. Sajan Prakash finished 46th overall out of the 60 swimmers in the competition.
USA's Caeleb Dressel is the favorite to win the event, and he equalled the Olympic record with a timing of 50.39 seconds. The last time a swimmer clocked in at 50.39 seconds in the 100m butterfly event was when Joseph Schooling beat Michael Phelps to the gold medal at the Rio Olympics in 2016.
Much to learn from the Olympics for India's swimmers
All three swimmers from India - Srihari Nataraj, Maana Patel and Sajan Prakash - failed to make it past the heats in their respective events. They also failed to better their personal best timings. While this particular outing might not have been too fruitful for the Indians, the past three months have been monumental.
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All three swimmers will have plenty to learn from their experience in Tokyo. There's a healthy crop of young swimmers like Nataraj and Patel, and experienced ones such as Virdhawal and Prakash. With them, India will be aiming to bag medals at the upcoming Asian and Commonwealth Games. In that regard, the Tokyo Olympics have been a step in the right direction.