THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: At 16, Virdhawal Khade became the youngest Indian swimmer to participate in the Olympics. He competed in three events at the 2008 Beijing Olympics — 50m, 100m and 200m — the first Indian to swim in three Olympic events. At 20, he was one among the four swimmers who were wrested off an Olympic berth for the London edition by the swimming world body (FINA) in spite of achieving the Olympic Selection Timing (OST).
With the Rio Olympics fast approaching, the strapping 6.3 ft swimmer from Maharashtra, has decided to leave all those memories behind. “Rio Olympics is all that I have in mind right now,” he says, after representing Maharashtra in the 4x400m relay in the National Games. “The World Swimming Championships to be held in Russia in June will be the major event this year. I’m looking forward to that. A good showing there will help my confidence,” he adds.
Virdhawal, fondly called ‘Veeru’, believes that he can make the Olympic cut this year itself. “I was unfortunate as the FINA rules prevented me from participating at the London Olympics. That was a technical issue. I saw the new Olympic standard FINA has issued and I’m confident of qualifying for Rio,” the bronze-medallist in the 50m butterfly category at the 2010 Guangzhou Asian Games added.
Being away from action for two years since London Olympics, Virdhawal, who trains under Nihar Ameen, says the return has been smooth and that it was not disenchantment with the sport that prompted the sabbatical. “After the London Olympics, I got a job as a Gazetted Officer in Maharashtra Revenue Department. I loved working there and that’s why I couldn’t return,” he clarified.
Virdhawal is not one to dwell in the past and says that he is expecting a tough but fruitful journey ahead. He fancies his chances in the 50m, 100m freestyle and 50m butterfly categories. “My favourite event is 50m freestyle. It suits me and I feel I have more chances of winning in that. My personal best is 22.55 and the Olympic qualifying mark is 23.13. I can slice the timing off even more,” he signed off.