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Chance for Indians to qualify for Olympics

BANGALORE, JUNE 16. The Malaysian Open championship offers the Indian swimmers a chance to make it to the Olympics. As many as eight Indians are taking part in the championship from June 24 to 27. Being one of the last last major meet in the region, prior to the Olympics, the turnout from other nations is also set to be high

With only Shikha Tandon making the Olympic mark in the 50 and 100m freestyle for women, there are enough contenders eager to make the cut. High on the list is Nisha Millet, who along with her sister Reshma will compete in the meet. Nisha hopes to qualify in the 200m freestyle, where a 2:06 performance should put her in the qualifying bracket. This is not a big target for her as she had done that earlier in 2000 to qualify for the Sydney Olympics. But then her career underwent an upheaval, as she was laid low with back ailment and subsequently underwent surgery to remove a non-malignant growth.

A stint again in Perth with her Australian coach, Bernie Mulory and a good deal of hard training under the BAC coach, S. Pradeep Kumar at home, put her back on track and Nisha exudes confidence and says that she looks forward to the challenge ahead. "I will give it my best shot and I am happy with the way I have trained," said Nisha.

Her sister Reshma also looks forward to doing her best in 50 and 100m freestyle, besides backstroke.

The other Indian competitors in the fray include, Rehan Poncha, V. Arun, Amar Muralidharan, Puneet Rana and Mandar Divase. Rehan has been training in Australia and will fly to Malaysia directly from Perth and even if does not make the cut in his favourite butterfly events, he is tipped a wildcard to make the Olympics as the male swimmer in the squad, provided other men do not make the grade.

Divase, the long distance specialist, training under Nihar Ameen, is leaving nothing to chance. Ameen feels that Divase's prospects are bright in the long distance (1500m freestyle). Rana, who too has joined Nihar, hopes to crack the 1:05 qualifying norm in the 100m breaststroke. It will be interesting to see how Muralidharan, who was under a drug test cloud some time ago, performs at the meet. For Shikha Tandon, the Malaysian meet offers a stage to prove her mettle again. — Our Special Correspondent

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