Swimmer Virdhawal Khade is considered to be one of India’s finest swimmers. The 26-year-old was the youngest ever Indian swimmer to qualify for the Olympics in 2008 in Beijing. Although he did not qualify for the semi-finals of the 100m freestyle in Beijing, Khade set an Indian national record of 50.07 seconds during the heat. The highlight of his career has been winning bronze medal in the Asian Games in 2010.

However, Khade had gone off the radar after he was appointed as tahsildar (revenue inspector) by the State government in 2012. Posted in rural Maharashtra, both training and focus took a hit. As the workload, Khade gradually eased up on his committments on the swimming circuit. He missed the 2012, 2016 Olympics and the Commonwealth Games in 2014.

Despite the lengthy absence from the spotlight, the 26-year-old now wants make a fresh start. With the Commonwealth and Asian Games a year away, Khade has procurred a transfer to Mumbai after some help from chief minister Devendra Fadnavis and revenue minister Chandrakant Patil. He hopes the move will help train in a better way for the marquee events, where he feels he has a realistic chance of bagging a medal.

“I am in the bracket for a medal in Asian and Commonwealth Games,” Khade said. “Realistically you see, I have a chance to bag a medal at these games, but I have to balance my work and training and see how does it work out,” added Khade, who was on Monday appointed brand ambassador of Swimmathon, an open water swimming championship set to held on December 3 in Goa.

Khade has already begun working towards his target and recently won the 50m Butterfly, 50m Freestyle at the Swimming Nationals in Bhopal. “The nationals in Bhopal were my first competition after one and half years and so the result was satisfactory,” said Khade.

From 105 kgs to 85kgs

However, the journey was not easy for Khade, who was posted in Malvan a region located in Maharashtra’s Sindhudurg district since 2015.

“When I was in Sindhudurg, my weight was 105 kg, since I started training two months back I have shed 20 kg. I had to reduce the weight as I wanted to particiapate in the Nationals. I maintained a strict diet and exercise to get me the desired results,” said Khade.

“The posting affected my career. There was no swimming pool there and I did not enter the swimming pool for six to eight months. So I suffered. Plus there are different challenges while working in rural areas, but there I still have time,” he added.

He wants to put the time spent away from the pool behind and wants to focus on the future. On Monday, he took charge at the Tahsildar office in Andheri.

Khade will begin his training next week at Khar Gymkhana and is optimistic on bagging medals next year.