Though no Indian swimmer has ever met an Olympic ‘A’ qualification mark, Khade was hoping to make his splash in Tokyo in another three months before the pandemic brought the world to its knees.
“I was planning to go to West Virginia, USA to train under Sergio Lopez (a top coach who trained the likes of world record holder Ryan Murphy). Our plan was to move to USA in January-February and then stay till the Olympics. Unfortunately, that plan was delayed. Good for us because the situation is bad in USA,” Khade told TOI.
Asked whether the 2021 Games will affect him, the 2010 Asian Games bronze medallist, who will be 30 next year, said: “I don’t think it will affect me badly. I’m looking at the postponement as extra time to prepare for the Games. I don’t think age will be a factor for me. It would have been better for me if it happened this year but I’m looking at the positives. I’m hoping to qualify by the end of this year. If things go well, I hope to reach the semis or final at the Olympics next year.”
With six Indians, including Khade, already meeting the ‘B’ qualification mark, the ace swimmer said the new window may be a boon for top Indian swimmers.
“The extra time will help Indian swimmers to win more slots for the country. No one has qualified (making the ‘A’ qualification time) so far but I think this one and a half years will see more than one Indian swimmer qualifying with the ‘A’ mark,” said Khade.
“Srihari Nataraj, Sajan Prakash, Advait Page and Kushagra Rawat are all capable of meeting the ‘A’ mark,” he added.
Khade, who was scheduled to swim in six competitions including three in USA and the rest in Spain and France, said he can now focus on three events. “With so much time to go, I’ll shift my focus to the 50 and 100m freestyle and the 100m butterfly. If my 100 time does not improve by the end of the year, then I might shift my focus to 50m,” said Khade, who trains with Nihar Ameen at the Padukone-Dravid Centre for Sports Excellence here.
At home with Rujuta
Khade, who is now back in Mumbai with his wife Rujuta — India’s fastest women swimmer — said he is working out 3-4 hours every day. “All the pools and gyms are shut so I do bodyweight exercises at home trying to stay fit and not put on weight. We still try to get three hours of training. An hour of yoga in the morning and then two hours of body weight exercises.”
Khade hoped to get back to training by the end of this month. “Even if we can manage one session per day in the pool, it would be very good. That is if the pools are open. But for now, I will be doing my own workouts from here and follow the ones send by Nihar sir from Bengaluru,” Khade said, treating the lockout as his off season.