Considered one of India’s finest ever swimmers, Srihari Nataraj reached the finals of the 100m and 50m men’s backstroke events at the Commonwealth Games 2022 in Birmingham, to produce a complete performance that was arguably the best by an Indian to not finish on the podium.
In his first major event since Tokyo Olympics, the 21-year-old did not return with a medal from Birmingham, but in arguably the toughest sport at CWG, he reached finals in not one but two events. And in the third, came up with a national best timing.
His fifth-place finish in the men’s 50m backstroke put him within touching distance of a medal. Additionally, with 54.31s in the men’s 100m backstroke final, he finished seventh. He clocked 2:00.84s in the 200m backstroke heats to again, secure the best-ever timing by an Indian, and just narrowly miss the spot in the final.
While his performances are certainly worth applauding in the context of Indian swimming, the Tokyo Olympian rues as an opportunity missed. His personal best of 53.77 at the 58th International Trophy “Settecolli” in 2021, which is a national record, was better than the timing that won the 100m backstroke final. Bronze went to a timing of 54.06s, while Srihari finished with 54.31s….