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The Tokyo Olympics are all set to start from 23 July 2021. The Games will have several participants from all over the world. One such participant is 21-years-old Maana Patel. She has become the First Indian Female Swimmer to qualify for the Olympics. She will be competing in the Tokyo Olympics in the women's 100m Backstroke. She is quite excited to have won in this category after going through harsh lockdown and pool closures due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
Patel's application was approved by world governing body FINA after some impressive performances in the last three months in European meets.
Upon being asked how she feels about qualifying, she said to the press in Ahmedabad, "I am very, very thrilled."
"I am honoured and humbled to represent my country at the Olympics this year. But I believe this is just the beginning for me and there is a long way to go. Many more medals to win for India," she added.
For those who don't know, the universality quota permits one male and female participant each from a country to take part in the Olympics. However, there's a catch in this quota. In order to qualify, no other swimmer belonging to the same gender should qualify for the competition after undergoing the normal selection process.
As we know, the COVID-19 outbreak caused a major loss to India. The country had to undergo a nationwide complete lockdown. This compelled the athletes in India to stay at home without practising for their competitions. In fact, the second wave hit the country in a worse manner.
Due to this, the pools were shut down, compelling the swimmers to avoid practising in the pools for the Tokyo Olympics. Still, Maana Patel made it to the Games and this is undoubtedly wonderful. Patel recalled her struggle with the preparations during the COVID-19 outbreak. She said, "The Corona period was very difficult for all of us, especially for swimmers because pools were shut for a very long time and it was very difficult for us to practice."
"I kept myself fit by exercising at home, eating clean and healthy food. I read good books to keep myself positive and calm."
Before this, Patel won a gold medal at a meet organised in April in Uzbekistan. She also won in Italy and Serbia. At the Belgrade meet, she set a new national record of 03.77 seconds in 100m backstroke. This was also her personal best in backstroke.
"When I was 13, I got the Indian best time in 150 and 250 metres backstroke and from then there has been no looking back."
After men's athletes, Srihari Nataraj and Sajan Prakash, Patel is the third Indian swimmer to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics.