New Delhi: It’s been a testing last few years for swimmer Virdhwal Khade. From being the best thing that happened to Indian swimming, to starting out once again from the scratch to make a mark for himself in the pool, the Kolhapur lad has seen it all. After missing out on four back-to-back mega tournaments – 2012 and 2014 Olympics, 2014 Commonwealth and Asian Games – Khade’s career had come to a standstill ever since his bronze medal winning effort in 2010 Asiad.
Call it destiny, the national record holder in five different categories, from freestyle to butterfly, Khade was mostly away from action for the last 4-5 years owing to his job as a tehsildar. A serious knee injury looked to have derailed his career. But Khade seems to have put all that behind him, and is solely focusing on swimming now. His persistence to become a stronger and a better swimmer is already reaping results.
The youngest Indian swimmer to qualify for the Olympics, Khade tasted success at senior nationals in 50m freestyle and butterfly events, last October. Though he was put to test at the Commonwealth Games this year by some of the world’s best swimmers, but Khade certainly seems to be making a headway.
“I had a decent start at the Commonwealth Games. Even though the results weren’t the best, but I believe that a couple of medals are around the corner in the Asian Games. I started training last October, so reaching that level itself is a big achievement. I have been clocking better timings in the training so I can certainly do better in the future competitions,” a confident Khade told News18 Sports.
“After the knee injury it wasn’t easy for me to come back and produce results instantly. You have to be mentally strong for that. Training wise, last two months have been very satisfying. I have been consistently improving on my performance, so that’s a big positive for me. My goal this year will be not only to win medals but also improve upon my existing national records."
Khade trains at the Padukone-Dravid Centre for Sports Excellence, which is the only facility in India that matches world-class standards. In fact, the pool was designed by Mythra, the official pool designers for Olympics. Training at state of the art pool will certainly hold him in good stead.
“If I can slash half a second from 50m freestyle, I will enter the prestigious top-50 in the world. Barring that I already have set a few long-term targets. One of them would be to start making it to the final of the Olympics. That’s a realistic target that I’ve set for myself. And am eyeing a gold medal at the Asian Games too.
"Most pools in India don't have starting blocks. So you don't get a good start. I can surely improve my timings here," Khade added.
Khade's return might be a good news for the India's chances at global events, but it brings to the fore the problem of dearth of quality swimmers in the country. That worries the man himself.
"To come out after a gap of 3-4 years and win the nationals is a good sign for me, but not so much for the Indian swimming. In this gap too, no one has been able to come up and take my place. What the youngsters need to do is work harder, to be the best."
With this he also pointed out the areas that are pulling the Indian swimming down. "The main reason we are lacking on the international front is that it’s only Sandeep, Sajan and I who are doing well. There is no one after us who can really compete internationally. The main problem is grassroots coaching. A lot these coaches teach kids the wrong way to swim. That does not help us either. So it’s imperative that our coaches receive coaching. If that happens, the timings would improve," he concluded.