Khade & Sejwal qualify for Beijing Games

Virdhawal Khade & Sandeep Sejwal... all set for Beijing Games.-K. MURALI KUMAR

Virdhawal Khade is the first Indian to qualify for three events (200,100 & 50 freestyle), in the Olympics and Sandeep Sejwal made the cut in the 100 and the 200m breaststroke.

It was a dream meet for Virdhawal Khade and Sandeep Sejwal, who smashed their way into the Beijing Olympics, bettering the qualifying norms at the Malaysian Open swimming championship held in the first week of May at Kuala Lumpur.

For the 16-year-old Khade, the country’s fastest swimmer and a World class talent, the performance at Kuala Lumpur was beyond his expectations.

Khade, who picked up four individual golds, came up with superb timings. He had qualified for the Olympics in the 200m freestyle at the World championship held at Melbourne in 2007, when he clocked 1:52.41s .The qualifying time was in 1:52.53s. Khade re-wrote that mark once again with 1:51.65s at Kuala Lumpur and he went two steps better, by qualifying in both the 100m freestyle and clocked a career best of 23.03s to make the grade. He also made it to the 50m freestyle.

Khade thus has become the first Indian to qualify for three events in the Olympics. Sandeep Sejwal, the 19-year breaststroke ace, who came close to making the Olympic cut in the senior Nationals in 2007 and later at the Australian Olympic qualifying meet, finally cracked that barrier at Kuala Lumpur, by making the cut in both the 100m breaststroke (1 :03.58s) and the 200m breaststroke (2:18.23s). The Indian swimmers, also broke nine National marks in the process.

Both the swimmers who are wards of coach Nihar Ameen of the K.C. Reddy Swim Centre in Bangalore, were clearly overjoyed with their show.

“To swim in the Olympics was my dream and that I am going to do it in three events, beats my expectations,” said Virdhawal Khade. He had missed out on the Australian Olympic qualifying meet at Sydney earlier in April, due to a knee injury. “Getting back into action a few weeks later and doing my best has given me lot of confidence and I hope to prove myself in the Beijing Olympics as well,” said Khade.

Sandeep Sejwal said that after his unsuccessful bid at Sydney, he was determined to make a mark at Kuala Lumpur.

“It was tough racing against a good field and I am glad that we won them and also made the qualifying cut. Now I can focus on my training for Olympics,” said Sejwal.

Kalyan Ashok * * * Clarke to leave later

Australian vice-captain Michael Clarke has pulled out of the first half of the national team’s tour to the West Indies due to the serious condition of his fiancé Lara Bingle’s father.

Clarke’s dad Les has Hodgkin’s disease, but it is the condition of Graham Bingle who is suffering from liver cancer that is worrying both the families.

“I will not be travelling to the West Indies with the team due to family reasons,” Clarke said in a short statement. “I am looking forward to getting over there as soon as possible,” he added.

The withdrawal of Clarke came as a surprise to some of his team-mates and a Cricket Australia spokesman said his arrival date in the West Indies was currently unclear.

Michael Hussey has been handed the vice-captaincy and Brad Hodge has been named as a shadow player.