Virdhawal Khade is riding high after a commendable performance at the recently-held 35th National Games in Kerala. The 23-year-old Kolhapur lad emerged as the fastest swimmer of the event winning the 50 m freestyle event pushing Madhya Pradesh’s Aaron D’Souza to the second spot – an event the youngster has been winning since 2005. The Maharastra swimmer even set a new record, bettering his own record of 0:23.08 set in the 2011 National Games held in Jharkhand.
Virdhawal won two more gold medals in the men’s 50 m butterfly and men’s 4 X 200 m relay freestyle events, besides bagging silver medals in the men’s 100 m freestyle and men’s 4 X 100 m relay freestyle events for an impressive haul of 5 medals. The Indian ace, who trains at Bengaluru-based Dolphin Aquatics Center under coach Nihar Ameen, talks about his plans for the 2016 Rio Olympics and much more in an exclusive interview.
Q. You won five medals including three gold medals at the recent 35th National Games in Kerala. How would you sum up your performance?
I was expecting to fare well in the National Games considering the kind of training I have put in over the past several months. Winning five medals – three gold medals – is indeed satisfying for me, and will stand me in good stead for the future.
Q. Do you think there is a need for more top-level swimming events like the National Games for Indian swimming to prosper?
Absolutely! We need to have more top-level swimming events especially for the seniors. Maybe 3-4 big meets annually will do a world of good to our swimmers. Sometimes we train hard and yet don’t know if everything is going the right way and where we actually stand, so it is important to have more top-notch swimming events like the National Games.
Q. Sajan Prakash had a splendid 35th National Games bagging a bucketful of medals. How do you assess him?
He is a talented youngster and is a good prospect for the future.
Q. There is a line of thinking that there is dearth of quality swimming coaches in India. Your thoughts.
It is true that we have paucity of good coaches. The country has only two good coaches in Nihar Ameen and Pradeep Kumar, both based in Bengaluru. The point is those swimmers who want to pursue swimming and are talented suffer due to lack of quality coaching and many of these swimmers may not have the wherewithal to come down to Bengaluru to train under Nihar Ameen or Pradeep Kumar.
Q. Non-cricket sports don’t quite attract the corporate houses. How do you manage all your training expenses?
Well, I work in the revenue department of the Maharashtra government and half of my expenses are met from my salary, while my dad chips in with the rest. I need to spend around eighty to ninety thousand per month on training, diet, etc. My dad has been a pillar of support for me all these years and I owe a lot to him.
Q. How difficult it is to stay motivated to pursue a sport like swimming?
Of course, it can be a challenge when you know no corporate houses are going to lend their assistance . I hope sponsors come forward to support swimming. I won bronze at the 2010 Asiad and was on a high, but soon felt dejected as I did not get enough recognition. I wanted to quit swimming, but my coach Nihar Ameen and my dad kept me going and today I’m swimming strongly thanks to their unstinted motivation.
Q. Where do you think Indian swimmers stand when you look at the world’s top swimmers?
Most of these top swimmers are genetically superior to us and they have a robust swimming culture – they have a strong swimming culture in place. I’m not saying we don’t have, but just that swimming needs to be encouraged more for India to really make it big on the world stage.
Q. The 2016 Rio Olympics is not far away. What plans you have up your sleeve?
I took a two-week break after the 35th National Games and now training hard. The Olympics qualifiers will be held in Russia in July, hopefully I will do well and seal an Olympic berth.
Q. How many years of swimming do you think you have in you?
I hope to keep swimming at the competitive level at least till the 2018 Asian Games and will take it from there.