“I can do much better”

Virdhawal Vikram Khade, a 19-year-old strapping, tall young man has now emerged as the new sports icon when he ended a long drought of medals in the swimming event at the Asian Games by winning a bronze in 50 m butterfly.

Saving grace

Khade's show indeed was a saving grace in an otherwise mediocre Indian performance in aquatics at the Games. Khade, for the record, emulated Khazan Singh's feat of 1986 Asian Games at Seoul where he won silver in the 200m butterfly race.

That it look so long for an Indian to win a medal again speaks volumes about the huge gulf that exists between Indian swimmers and the rest on the world stage. But Khade could be a great exception as he is considered one of the best swimmers in the world in his age group. The young man from Kolhapur has been improving his time in all the recent sprint events. Standing at 6'3", the young lad has a body structure, which his personal coach, Nihar Ameen, rates as “easily the best among Indian swimmers''.

He has a great instinct in water and does his best under pressure. A shining example of his grit was quite easily the bronze winning show at the Asian Games, a day after a heart-breaking end in the 50m freestyle final, when he lost a medal by a whisker (0.03s). “My father was quite cut up with that and demanded that I win gold in the butterfly, but I won a bronze and that was good enough,” said Khade.

Great run

Khade's display was not a surprise as he had a fairytale run in the last two years. He holds five National records: 50m freestyle (22.55s), 100m freestyle (49.47), 200m freestyle (49.86), 50m butterfly (24.14) and 100m butterfly (52.77). He became the first Indian to break into the FINA world rankings in 2008 in the 50m butterfly when he was ranked 50. In the Asian championship in 2009, he won a gold and three bronze medals and in the Asian age group championship, he won four golds and in the preceding year at the Commonwealth Youth Games, he won three gold medals.

Olympic medal, his dream

He did make it to the final of Commonwealth Games in Delhi, last month in the 50m butterfly. But Khade's big goal remains winning a medal at the Olympics, which he feels would be his 'ultimate' achievement. His personal coach Nihar believes that Khade has the potential to do it, if not in 2012 but in 2016. “Age is on his side and he is only getting better,” said Nihar, who has three decades of coaching experiences having trained Nisha Millet, Hakimuddin, Meghana

Narayan, Rehan Poncha and Shikha Tandon. India is far behind when it comes to scientific coaching, felt Khade. “We lack scientific back-up as in the U.S. or Australia and Europe. I am confident I can do better with much better support,” he said. Khade, who completed his High School Board exam last year, plans to concentrate on higher studies as well. “One cannot just depend on swimming alone,” he said. Off the pool, he spends time watching DVDs and listens to music and hangs out with close friends. A perfect role model, in and out the pool for sure.

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Printable version | Jul 25, 2021 4:01:33 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/nxg/ldquoI-can-do-much-betterrdquo/article15579181.ece

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