How Indian swimmers Virdhawal Khade and Sajan Prakash keep in shape

While Sajan Prakash remains with his team at his training base in Phuket, Virdhawal Khade is fulfilling his role as a ‘tahsildar’ in times of crisis.

By Naveen Peter ·

One of India’s premier swimmers Sajan Parkash was stepping back into the pool following a neck injury when the COVID-19 pandemic not only brought his training to an abrupt halt but also derailed his plans for the season.

However, for the Rio 2016 Olympian, the resultant postponement of the Tokyo Games seems to be a blessing in disguise. It has now allowed Sajan Prakash to take the extended period to work on getting back into shape before the competitions resume.

“I don’t want to push myself into an event unless I am completely fit,” he said speaking to the Olympic Channel.

“Initially we were working towards racing at the events in Malaysia, Singapore and probably Thailand to go for the ‘A’ cut (Olympic qualification mark), but now I don’t want to hurry into anything and work my way to the top.”

Having aggravated his neck injury at the South Asian Games last year, the Indian swimmer was in Bengaluru undergoing his rehabilitation before he chose to move to Phuket, his training base, in the early weeks of February.

However, with the coronavirus outbreak growing since then, the 26-year-old finds himself restricted to his training base.

The Indian swimmer is on a scholarship from the International Swimming Federation (FINA) and is staying at the Thanyapura Academy with 16 other swimmers of different nationalities.

Though the uncertainties surrounding the world has had an impact on their daily life, the coach of the Thanyapura Academy, Miguel Lopez said that the swimmers were helping each other pull through this phase

“For us, the most important part is to keep high morale and keep the spirit among the swimmers high,” he said.

“This group is pulling together. They are very supportive of each other and they are being quite positive. They are training and trying to stay in shape the same way we would under normal circumstances.”

Sajan Parkash too assured that it was business as usual, even though there was no access to the pool. “We have been doing a lot of dryland training,” he said.

“We are continuing to follow the schedule that we would have under normal circumstances. We are up early in the morning, train as we would on any given day and are trying to continue with our day’s routine as we would on a usual day,” said the butterflier.

Duty keeps Virdhawal engaged

Meanwhile, back home in India, one of India’s elite has found a way to fight laxness that would creep in when restricted indoors for a prolonged period.

Virdhawal Khade, who became the youngest Indian swimmer to participate at the Olympics at Beijing 2008 (he was 15), is a tahsildar with the Maharashtra government.

And with government agencies running into overdrive due to the pandemic, the Indian ace believes ihe ‘office work’ helps him in breaking the monotony.

“The collector’s office is working in full swing, so I have to report to work on a daily basis,” he said.

“Though I am not directly involved in any of the COVID-19 related work, there are a lot of other things that I manage. For me, it’s an opportunity to get out of the house."

The 28-year-old was scheduled to fly to the USA to train under Sergio Lopez, the man who brought the best out of the likes of Ryan Murphy of the USA and Singapore’s Joseph Schooling.

But with international travel suspended just days before his journey, Virdhawal Khade was forced to cancel his plans. “Well, now that I look back, I am happy that it didn’t work out. Or else I would be stuck in the USA,” he said.

“Our plan was to train there, compete at a few events and then head to Europe around June-July to go for the ‘A’ cut. But now we could think of doing that next season.”

However, the freestyle specialist is doing his bit to stay in shape even during the lockdown. “I stay with my wife (a national-level swimmer) and we do our workouts together. So that’s some fun. I want to ensure that I am in top shape when the pools are opened,” he said.

While Virdhawal Khade was planning on heading to the USA for training, one of India’s upcoming backstrokers Srihari Natraj was looking at Australia to further his training.

But with the pandemic halting that plan, the Bengaluru-based swimmer is left to work with what he has at his home. And by his own admission, it’s enough to take care of his dryland training.

“I have a few weights and a cross-trainer. I think my dryland training is taken care of,” he said.

And with his trainer giving him the liberty to design his own routine, the 19-year-old is ensuring that he pushes his limits during this time. 

“I was coming on the back of an intense season. I wanted something that could help me build on that. So, my trainer has let me design my routine, but I need to run it by him before I can get down to working on it,” he said. 

With India’s elite bunch doing their best to stay in shape despite the pandemic that brought life to a standstill, it will remain to be seen how they perform once back in the waters as the race for Olympic qualification resumes in the coming months.