Olympian Virdhawal Khade: ‘Might Consider Retiring’ if Indian Pools Don’t Open Soon

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The wait to reopen pools in India has been grating for elite swimmers like Virdhawal Khade, who vented his frustration on Twitter Sunday.

“Might have to consider retiring from swimming,” Khade tweeted. “No news or communication of any sorts for being able to start swimming again.”

It’s been almost three months since Khade has been able to get in the water, he said, due to the coronavirus pandemic. The communication from India’s sporting powers has been nonexistent over a possible reopening, Khade said.

Khade is one of India’s most decorated swimmers in recent decades. The 28-year-old who trains at the Padukone-Dravid Academy in Bengaluru qualified for the 2008 Beijing Olympics at age 16. He holds most of the nation’s sprint freestyle and butterfly records and is one of six Indian swimmers to have attained B cuts for the Tokyo Olympics. His accolades include bronze at the Asian Games in 2010 and three golds and one silver medal in the South Asian Games.

Pools are on the tail end of openings in India, despite athletic facilities for track and field, hockey, badminton, tennis and cricket being cleared to open in early June. The Indian Swimming Federation has tried to get the government to reopen pools but has been unsuccessful. It’s a challenge that others have expressed frustration with in the recent past.

Virdhawal Khade, who spoke to the Hindustan Times Sunday, cited the impossibility of replacing aquatic training with other modes of fitness as a prime reason for the pressure he’s feeling.

“It will take at least 3-4 months depending on the discipline …,” Khade said. “For me it would take at least three months to get back to top shape, considering I have maintained physical conditioning. When you are swimming your entire body is working at the same time; in no other exercise outside the pool are you using your entire body—finger tips to toes. Though we do weight training and other exercises outside the pool, we need to convert that into strength in the water to go faster.”

India has, according to the Hindustan Times, 332,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 9,520 fatalities. Karnataka, the state containing Bengaluru, has reported just shy of 6,000 cases and a mere 66 deaths in a state with a population of 64 million.

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