Virdhawal Khade, a previous bronze medalist in swimming, did not reach the podium in his fourth Asian Games participation. However, he never imagined his swimming career “would last this long.”
At the Asian Games in Hangzhou, 32-year-old Khade swam in the 50-meter freestyle and 50-meter butterfly events, placing fifth and seventh in his respective heats.
He almost missed a podium finish in the men’s 50m freestyle final in 2018 after winning a rare Asian Games bronze medal in the 50m butterfly in 2010.
I’ve participated in four Asian Games. My first was in Doha, when I was a teenager, in 2006. 2010 saw me win a bronze in Guangzhou. And I just missed winning a medal in Jakarta in 2018,” added Khade.
“I joined the squad as a junior and am now the senior member. I feel quite proud of this. I never would have imagined that I would persevere this long and go on to become a swimming legend in India back in 2006.
After 2012, his career took a hiatus. He accepted a position with the Maharashtra government, and because of official electoral duties, he was unable to attend the 2014 Asian Games.
“I began working for the state government in 2012, and it was incredibly challenging to find time to train. I probably only had two years of quality training between 2012 and 2018, and those were six years ago.
“That makes a significant difference in a sport like swimming. I had to forgo my events and concentrate just on the 50m. There were several obstacles on my path. Despite all of that, I was still able to practice hard and return to that level.
Although a medal would have been wonderful, I was really pleased of myself for being able to pull it off. I achieved my greatest times in the 50m freestyle and butterfly in 2018, which was the quickest year of my life. In the 100-meter freestyle, I also swam rather quickly. But being without a medal made me a stronger and more resilient person.
Khade chose to practice without a coach earlier this year but found it difficult. During the COVID-19 lockout, he had considered giving up the sport.
“I train by myself. It is quite distinctive. This time last year, when I first tried to practice on my own, it was incredibly challenging since you can’t push yourself.
“Every time I recorded a workout, it turned out to be the simplest exercise that is quite doable. A few months later, I declared that it would not be successful.
Then he recruited a Mumbai-based acquaintance to organize his workouts.
So Manikumar in Mumbai is my best buddy who is now training me. I told him as we sat down that these were my goals and that I needed your assistance to reach them.
It was a difficult challenge for him as well since not many coaches in India had expertise instructing older swimmers, much alone at this level. I then explained to him that my body required this. He was the one who wrote the exercise plans for me.
Indian swimming, according to Khade, “is going fast enough” and becoming better.
“Good things take a long time to happen in swimming. Looking back on 2005, the days just felt different. The then-current 100-meter national record was 53 seconds. We now have at least 20 workers who can move more quickly. That seems like a significant improvement to me.
“We need to work harder, and the female swimmers need to catch up a little bit. For the first time since 2006, we are fortunate to have a few females who have made it into the Asian Games squad. So, females need additional assistance.