Mumbai: India`s brightest hope to win a swimming medal in next year`s Commonwealth and Asian Games, Virdhawal Khade, is trying to balance his professional career as a government servant and his sport, but says no one should be surprised if he prefers the former to swimming in near future.
"My preparations are going well. Unfortunately I have started working for the state govt (Tehsildar in Borivli dealing with encroachments). I have to work the full day (11-to 6). I can`t give as much time to swimming as I used to," said the 22-year-old swimmer on the sidelines of a media conference here on Monday.
The Commonwealth Games are scheduled in Glasgow, Scotland from July 23 to August 3 followed by Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea from September 19 to October 4.
"Earlier I used to train for 8-9 hours; now I can train for only 5-6 hours (from early morning 5:30 to 8:30-9 and again from 6 or 6:30 in the evening), which is quite a drawback. But I am trying to cope up with work and swimming and, hopefully, if I do things at the right time I should be among medals next year.
"I also want to study for UPSC examinations. Long term, I have to think about what I have to do for my family. If that affects my swimming, then no one should be surprised. Everyone has the right to plan for their family. I plan to swim till 2016 Olympic Games (in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil)," said Khade who provided a swimming medal (50m butterfly bronze) for India at the Asian Games after a gap of 24 years in 2010 in Guangzhou.
The Kolhapur-born swimmer, who became the youngest Indian swimmer to take part in 2008 Beijing Olympics but did not go to London last year despite attaining the qualifying standards, said he was confident of doing well and winning medals at both the CWG and Asian Games.
"There are qualifying for CWG in Glasgow that should start end of February and also for the Asian Games and there would be a lot of competitions. We just have to give (perform) the time they have given as qualifying times. I am confident for both events. I am planning to take part in 3 events - 50, 100 free and 50 butterfly."
"I have been training seriously for a year. I will start racing in a month and then I can honestly see what has to be done, whether I have to go abroad. There are competitions in Singapore and Malaysia. There aren`t too many competitions in the country, so we have to rely on competitions outside," explained Khade.
The Asiad medalist is planning to train in Bangalore like he had done earlier in his career under Nihar Amin.
"I will be going there (to Bangalore) soon hopefully to continue my training. It`s the best possible option in India," he said.
He said he wanted to give back something to the sport, when asked whether he had improved as a swimmer.
"I don`t know as a swimmer, but I have improved as a person. (I had a) huge high at the Asian Games in 2010 and then was dropped out of the Olympic team. I will definitely try and help all young swimmers, financially and technically. I have seen everything as I have been around for the past 17 years and I need to give back to the game," he said.
He was forthright to point out that in India grassroot level sportspersons have to struggle for survival.
"Unfortunately in India you start getting things (to support your sporting endeavour) only when you reach the top. There`s no support for the grassroot level. Even people swimming at the national level they have immense talent but don`t get the support I would get.
"It so happened that when I won the medal at the Asian Games the limelight was on me. Those who were winning at the national level didn`t matter. The government or any or the corporate entities need to adopt the biggest talent and then only you can expect a lot more Virdhawal Khades."
Khade did not want to criticise the functioning of the swimming federation either beyond saying that things could be better (run) if more money is available.
"I don`t want to comment about how people are working because that can be slightly controversial and I still want to continue swimming for a few more years. I would say that things definitely can be better and they can be better only if there`s more money involved.
"It happens many a time that because we don`t have enough money we can`t go and train abroad or can`t participate in more competitions abroad. That should change and we should definitely get more resources. It hasn`t happened ever and that`s the only reason we are not performing as the Americans or the Australians."
Khade named a few rising swimmers as the ones to watch out for and wanted them to be given the necessary support.
"There is Sandeep Sejwal, Aaron D`souza, there are a couple of youngsters who are coming up very well. There is Manav Patel of Gujarat and Shivani Kataria of Haryana. There is a lot of potential, but they need to get the right kind of support," he said.