Virdhawal Khade dreams of Olympic glory in a new role

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Virdhawal Khade

Virdhawal Khade is amongst India’s most successful swimmers at the global level. The former Asian Games bronze medalist has announced his new role of coaching next-generation swimmers, with a simultaneous announcement of retirement to a 27-year illustrious career, in an Instagram post on Thursday.

Virdhawal Khade became the youngest Indian swimmer to qualify for the Olympics in 2008 in Beijing. He also became the first Indian to win an Asian Games medal (50m butterfly) in 24 years in 2010. Virdhawal and his wife Rutuja both won Gold medals in the 50m freestyle event.

Virdhawal Khade
Virdhawal and Rutuja

Khade has been serving as a Tahsildar of Maharashtra for 11 long years. He left this prestigious position to put his 100% effort into the new role as a swim coach. Just moments after his Instagram post, Khade was back in the pool of Khar Gymkhana to oversee a bunch of kids.

Virdhawal Khade’s new role

“Over the past few years, I knew that I wanted to do this(coaching). I guess this was my calling,” Khade said. “As a kid, I always wanted to win an Olympic medal. Unfortunately, I couldn’t do it as a swimmer, so now I get a chance to hopefully do it as a coach in the future.”

Khade’s first project will be based in Mumbai, coaching the team at Khar Gymkhana where he has been training since 2015. Khade has about 30 swimmers to work with, from age groups of 8-24 including six who have competed in the senior Nationals. “I have a good team here with three other coaches. Hopefully, with my knowledge and experience, I’ll help these swimmers achieve some good things,” Khade said.

Over a two-decade-long career, the multiple national record holder has trained at different places within the country and been on international exposure stints. He has witnessed the difference in infrastructure, science, and technology from an Indian and a global lens. For him from a coaching perspective though, the majority of work must happen in the water.

In a recent interview with Hindustan Times, Khade said, “All of that counts for little if you don’t work hard in the pool. A lot of us have started looking for solutions outside the pool. If somebody wants to work hard in the gym, bring in a nutritionist, and good physio support. Sure, all that is important, but it won’t do a thing if you aren’t working hard enough in the pool,” Khade said.

“And so once I’m happy with the effort that I’m seeing in the water, I’m going to start adding a little more science to it all.”

For Khade, the right age to pick and groom specialized swimming talent in India is between age 12-14. Foreign exposure can’t be everyone’s cup of tea, he said. “I wouldn’t want to copy-paste the things that I went through with everyone,” he added.

Virdhwal Khade is determined to bring a positive approach to the mindset of Indian athletes, giving them a belief that they are on the level with top international swimmers.

“Sitting here, we can know what sort of routines and workouts the American and Australians are doing. The data and numbers are easily accessible to anyone in the world. But first, the coaches need to believe it can happen. If a young swimmer is doing one minute in 100 freestyle, the swimmer, the coach, and the parents need to believe he can get down to 50 seconds.”

“Today’s youth is slightly delicate when it comes to dealing with pressure. We need to get them acquainted with handling that from a young age. They need to want it,” Khade said.

Virdhawal Khade’s initial challenge is to bring back the state of Maharashtra into the country’s swimming scene. Khade also desires to expand his coaching and experience beyond the state boundaries, training athletes from all over the country.

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