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Updated: April 13, 2011 21:14 IST

Water speedster

Kalyan Ashok
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Virdhawal Khade. File Photo: K. Gopinathan
The Hindu Virdhawal Khade. File Photo: K. Gopinathan

This young swimmer is looking forward to the 2012 Olympics

Overshadowed by the ICC World Cup 2011, the National Games held recently in Jharkhand was barely noticed by the media. But the Games went on and the star who shone brightly at the event was Virdhawal Khade, a 19-year-old swimmer from Kolhapur. Virdhawal, incidentally, had been training in Bangalore for the past several years under noted coach, Nihar Ameen.

Virdhawal received the ‘Best of Athletes' award for winning eight golds in swimming, all with new records, besides a silver. He dominated the pool with a rare touch of authority seldom seen in Indian aquatics. Virdhawal's performance for the National Games came as no surprise. In 2010, at the Asian Games in China, he became the first Indian swimmer in 24 years to win a medal.

Virdhawal has the natural build of a world-class swimmer and is extremely dedicated. As Ameen, observes, “He is a coach's delight and he just does what I want him to do in the pool.”

But the young swimmer is modest about his achievements. “I did my best under the circumstances, with hardly a month's training. There was so much uncertainty on whether the Games would take off what with so many postponements,” he says.

“But the confidence that I had gained in the Asian Games helped me.”

Virdhawal is now looking at qualifying for the 2012 Olympics in London. He has several chances to do that with a slew of events ahead, including Malaysian Open in May, Singapore Open in June, followed by World University Championship, Asian Age Group championship and the World Championship.

“I have to stay focussed and fit,” he says. Ask his coach how far he envisages Virdhawal will go, and he says: “He is just 19 and already in the medal-winning bracket in sprint events. World over, swimmers achieve maximum power when they are 25 plus in age, so you can say Virdhawal should peak in another four years. I am looking at medals from Asian Games in 2014 and also the Olympics of 2016.”

Ameen and Virdhawal would be more than happy to get the right kind of support staff such as a bio-mechanist and a physio. “Right now, I am a one-man army training Viru,” says Ameen.

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