India won a medal after 24 years in a sport which is still not celebrated much. All thanks to this young boy Virdhawal Vikram Khade, a 26-year-old swimmer, who scripted history after winning a medal for the country in the Asian Games 2010. Virdhawal is arguably the fastest swimmer in Asia and one of the fastest across the globe in his age group.
Virdhawal hails from Kolhapur, Maharashtra. His father, who was a basketball player, wanted him to take up any sport as a child. From a very young age, Virdhawal got into swimming. “My story is funny because I never wanted to continue sports. For me, it was too much hard work. But my father and coaches were so confident that I could be a good swimmer and represent the country. They kept me pushing and after a point I started enjoying,” tells Virdhawal in an interview with KenFolios.
Virdhawal pursued what his father wanted and the immediate next year, he won his first medal in the under-5 category. At a time when all his friends were having an easy life in school, Virdhawal would work hard and continue with his training. “At that point, those were the things I wanted to do. But I got maturity very soon and I understood that I was doing something for my parents and the country,” he recalls.
In the next five years, Virdhawal had won all the gold medals in almost all the swimming events. At an early age of 14, he broke on to the international sports scene. He jumped on to the senior scene of Indian swimming and in 2006, he got selected in the Asian Games, at just 15 years of age!
Bagging medals for the country
When he was 16-year-old, Virdhawal qualified at the Beijing Olympics in 2008, becoming the youngest ever Indian swimmer to qualify for an Olympics. Although he did not qualify for the semifinals of the 100m freestyle, he did finish first in his heat (Heat 3) and set a new personal best of 50.07 seconds placing him 42nd overall. He came 48th in the 200m freestyle and 32nd in the 50m.
Virdhawal created history on November 16th, 2010, when he captured a bronze after 24 years for India in swimming in the 50m butterfly category at the 16th Asian games in Guangzhou, China.
Virdhawal also became the first Indian to break into the top 50 of FINA World Rankings in 2010. Right after the Olympics, he won three gold medals in the Commonwealth Youth Games in 50m Butterfly, 100m Freestyle, and 200m Freestyle respectively.
“That I think was the highlight of my career,” he says.
However, Virdhawal’s journey was not very hunky-dory, as he had to face many challenges in his path. When he shifted to Bangalore for training, his father was taking care of all the finances and the family had to face financial challenges.
“For me it was difficult to adopt that because of me they have to adjust with so many things. When I qualified for the olympics I was 25 but I think that at the end it was all worth it,” he says.
Having more athletes in India
Virdhawal addresses the problem of not having enough coaches for sportsmen in the country. In swimming, there are just two coaches who train 95 percent of the swimmers who represent the country, Nihar Ameen and Pradeep kumar. Both of them are based in Bangalore. So if a person from any other part of the country wants to get trained, he has to come to Bangalore.
“I think that needs to be changed. And once this changes, we definitely will see a lot more athletes from all across the country which will be benefit for the country,” says Virdhawal.
Virdhawal believes that parents need to be a little brave and realize that there is a lot more than just academics. “Now that Khelo India has come up, many youngsters have got the opportunity to make a good career in sports. So parents need to accept it.”
Virdhawal is a gem that our country has. In such a young age, he has put the country on the international map. When many of us do not acknowledge this sport as a profession, this young boy has brought laurels for the country.
Share this story and spread positivity. Tell us your views by writing in the comment box below. We read each one of them.