India has been granted an Olympic berth in swimming with the world body FINA springing a surprise by choosing Karnataka swimmer Gagan AP Ulalmath in the men's 1,500m freestyle.
The surprise move, which gave Gagan a berth under the 'Universality' quota, shut the door on other more well-known swimmers Viradhwal Khade (100m freestyle), Sandeep Sejwal (100m and 200m breaststroke), Aaron d'Souza (200m freestyle) and Saurabh Sangvekar (1500m freestyle).
Swimming Federation of India Secretary-General Virendra Nanavati told PTI that it was the prerogative of the FINA to pick a swimmer from the country who could not have any representation. Gagan has not touched any qualification standard, while the other four have Olympic Selection Timing.
"We had four swimmers who crossed the Olympic Selection Timing. But those who crosses Olympic Qualification Timing gets automatic Olympic berth. Only some of OST standard achievers qualify for Olympics and FINA picks these swimmers at the end of qualification process," Nanavati said.
"Viradhwal, Sandeep, Aaron and Sangvekar were not included in the list of those qualified from among those OST swimmers. So we requested FINA that India should not go unrepresented in the Olympics and last night I got a letter from the FINA that Gagan has been granted a berth in men's 1500m freestyle under Universality quota," he said.
Under the 'Universality' quota, participation in the World Championships is a must and Gagan had taken part in 800m freestyle in that event held in Shanghai in July last year. He had clocked 8:21.23 there.
"Gagan took part in 800m freestyle in World Championships but his Olympic berth is in 1500m freestyle. It's the prerogative of FINA to choose the swimmer and event also. So we cannot do anything," he said, adding that no more Indian will get any berth.
Nanavati said under the 'Universality' quota, a country which will be unrepresented in the Olympics under the OQT and OST categories, can get a berth each in man and woman's categories but only Gagan was given a berth as no Indian woman had taken part in the World Championships.
"We could have a berth in woman's section also but no female swimmer took part in the World Championships. There will be no more berth for India now, it's close for us," he said.
Nanavati said that he had also recommended the names of d'Souza and Sangvekar for the Olympic berth as they also had participated in the World Championships but FINA had rejected the two swimmers' name as they could not make the Olympic cut from among the OST achievers.
"We had also recommended the names of Aaron and Sangvekar for the Olympic berth but FINA said since they were left out from the list of Olympic qualifiers from among those who achieved OST, they cannot be considered under the Universality quota," he said.
Strange it may seem that a swimmer who could not even cross Olympic Selection Time will get a berth on the basis of participation in the World Championships while the others who have OST standard are left out but Nanavati said that FINA rules will have to be followed.
"These rules were introduced a few years back and we have to follow them," he said.