Heartbreak for Khade, misses bronze by a whisker

The 26-year-old painfully came close to a medal in the men’s 50m freestyle at the 18th Asian Games and missed the bronze by one hundredth of a second.

Virdhawal Khade broke his own national record but missed the bronze medal by a whisker.   -  PTI

For the last few years, Virdhawal Khade has been in a dilemma of sorts. He has a job as a tahsildar in Maharashtra but it did not offer him much time to focus on his swimming.

He was forced to miss many majors, including the Rio Olympics, and only came back to serious training last September.

On Tuesday, the 26-year-old painfully came close to a medal in the men’s 50m freestyle at the 18th Asian Games and missed the bronze by one hundredth of a second.

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The world-class field included Japan’s Asian record holder Katsumi Nakamura who shared the 2016 Asian meet gold with China’s Yu Hexin.

But Khade stayed strong till the finish and watched in disappointment as Japan’s Shunichi Nakao took the bronze, clocking 22.46. Khade was fourth in 22.47. Hexin won the gold in 22.11s while Nakamura took silver (22.20).

Khade had broken his own national record in the morning heats, clocking 22.43s (old record 22.55s, 2009) while Anshul Kothari, his teammate, topped his heats in 22.83s but failed to make the final.

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“This year has been a year of improvement for me and I’m taking the positives from here, I think I should prepare for the 2020 Olympics,” said Khade, who had won the 50m butterfly bronze at the 2010 Guangzhou Asiad.

His job, he said, turned his entire swimming career upside down and that he might consider giving it up.

“Looks like it but I think it’s too early to decide on that,” he said.

“If I was in the TOP Scheme, things would have been easier and better and we would have had a better result. It’s definitely difficult for me to shell out all that I earn for my training. I definitely have to cut corners which I don’t think should happen in a sport like swimming.”

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But he was happy to see that he is still close to the best despite returning from a long break.

“When I resumed last year, I started with zero endurance, it was quite difficult. I think reaching this stage itself in a year is good. But coming this close to a medal and having to wait another four years for the Asian Games is a tough pill to swallow.”

Meanwhile China’s Liu Xiang broke the world record, clocking 26.98s, while winning the 50m backstroke gold.

The results:

Men’s 50m freestyle: 1. Yu Hexin (Chn) 22.11s, 2. Katsumi Nakamura (Jpn) 22.20, 3. Shunichi Nakao (Jpn) 22.46, 4. Virdhawal Khade (Ind) 22.47