BENGALURU: After a long time in his career, Virdhawal Khade will not be sweating at an election booth when the country presses the button to choose. India’s ace swimmer will be at the Dolphin Aquatics pool in Bengaluru, preparing for Olympic qualification. The tehsildar in the Maharashtra government has been relieved of election duty this time.
Since he took up this job in 2012, it had become a deterrent for his career. Duty took him to places where a pool was asking for too much. In 2014, when he needed to push hard to qualify for the 2016 Rio Olympics, Khade was on election duty. When this year’s elections came knocking on the door, the 28-year-old thought of quitting the job to continue swimming. Now, he can focus on what he is known for.
“Fortunately, the District Magistrate and collector of Mumbai suburbs, Sachin Kurve, has been supportive. At the end of last year, I wasn’t sure if I would be able to continue swimming and keep my job. But he assured me. I haven’t been asked to go on election duty or come to office for attendance,” Khade said. “It gives me freedom. I can concentrate on swimming.”
If that was one relief, the 2010 Asiad bronze medallist in 50m butterfly has also made it to the Target Olympic Podium (TOP) scheme watchlist for Tokyo. If he secures Olympic qualifying mark at the World Championship in July, he will receive full benefits of the central government scheme.
However, Khade doesn’t want to put additional pressure on himself to be in TOPS. “It’s a shot in the arm. But I don’t want to be very hopeful yet. I’ve been waiting for government support for a long time. I’ve been doing it all by myself my entire career.”
Now that he has seen light at the end of the tunnel, he doesn’t want to waste time worrying. He has achieved World Championships qualifying marks in 50 and 100m freestyle and 50m butterfly. His target is the Tokyo ‘A’ standard of 22.01s for 50m, 48.57s for 100m freestyle and 51.96s for 100m butterfly.
At present, Khade is 0.42s and 0.90s off the clock in 50m and 100m freestyle and 0.81s behind the mark in 100m butterfly. In his first competitive outing after a break at the Singapore Nationals, he couldn’t better his timings.
“The target is to get the mark at the Worlds, If it doesn’t happen, I have time till 2020 June to get there. I’m focussed on improving my starts, especially the first 15m. The rest will get better with every race,” said Khade, whose next event will the Malaysia Open in April.