Five months of being away from the pool has caused a change in priorities for one of India's most accomplished swimmers, Virdhawal Khade, who says he is content focussing on the job that helped him stay afloat mentally till facilities don't reopen in India. The 2010 Asian Games bronze-winner opted out of a training camp in Dubai for Olympic hopefuls, making it clear that he intends to focus on his job in Maharashtra government. Speaking to PTI, the 29-year-old said he will return to the sport only after pools in India reopen. They have been shut since March due to the COVID-19 lockdown.
"I am not retiring. Whenever pools open in India I will be back to training. I am still working out at home, keeping myself fit. I am happy with the fact that I can commit more time to work and family and prepare myself beyond swimming," he said. Swimmers in the country have not been able to enter the water since March 25, when the first coronavirus-forced lockdown was announced, forcing the national federation (SFI) to organise the two-month camp in Dubai.
Khade said he was desperate to return to training till June but began to lose motivation after that. "I haven't trained for five months. I went from being the fittest I have ever been in my life to absolute zero," Khade said. "Five months is a long time. Until June I was really positive, I was keeping myself fit and keeping focus mentally but after that I went on a really negative spiral. I started questioning myself," he added.
I am not traveling to Dubai because of personal reasons among other things . After 5 months away from the pool I have had to change priorities and focus on other things . My department has always supported me , now I would like to serve it and the people .
— Virdhawal Khade OLY (@virdhawalkhade) August 26, 2020
Khade attained the Olympic 'B' qualification mark last year with a timing of 22.44s in the 50m freestyle category. He needs to clock 22.01s to secure a berth at the Tokyo Games, postponed to next year due to the pandemic. "I had to really think if it was possible for me to qualify for the Olympics and even if I did qualify there also the question of if the Olympics are even happening or not," Khade said. "Keeping all the uncertainty in mind and considering I have been married for three years now and I am almost 30, I have to plan for my future," he added.
The Kolhapur-lad said going to work during this period helped him cope with the negativity festering inside him. "I just didn't want to stay negative mentally. It wasn't a good place to be in. So I decided I want to commit to my work now. It just seems more concrete than the sports scenario and mentally I have been in a much better place," he said.
"When it comes to sports there is no guarantee that you will achieve your goal and considering five months away that seems more unlikely to me." Khade, who works in the welfare and special assistance department, has been going to office daily since the lockdown began. He has been involved with the COVID-19 relief work as well. "I work with the welfare and special assistance department which falls under the collector's office. I have been in office almost every day even during the lockdown.
"The other officers have been busy distributing ration and supplies. Even when the Vande Bharat flights started they were at the airport. I didn't feel correct leaving (for the camp) while my colleagues were doing all the work and if I had left my work even my charge would fall upon them. It wasn't the responsible option. I want to help in whatever way I can." Khade said he has no regrets about the choice he made. "It has tapered me into a new life where I am working and doing something for myself and family and I enjoy doing this."