Virdhawal Khade: May consider retirement if swimming pools remain closed

Khade says the delay in resumption of training would put Indian swimmers at a huge disadvantage ahead of the Olympics.

Virdhawal Khade is among six Indian swimmers who have achieved the ‘B’ qualification mark.   -  Sudhakara Jain

Frustrated at not being able to resume training, Virdhawal Khade on Sunday said he may consider retiring from swimming if swimming pools continued to remain shut.

Khade said the delay in resumption of training would put Indian swimmers at a huge disadvantage ahead of the Tokyo Olympics.

“Might have to consider retiring from swimming . No news or communication of any sorts for being able to start swimming again. Wish swimming was treated the same as other sports in India,” Khade wrote on Twitter.

Several countries, including Thailand, Australia and the U.K., have reopened swimming pools, allowing athletes to return to training. However, even as the Ministry of Home Affairs announced guidelines to ease restrictions, allowing athletes to train at training centres without spectators, swimming pools remained out of bounds for all.

“Almost three months since the swimmers in India entered the pool. If other competitive athletes can follow social distancing while training, competitive swimmers can do the same as well. I hope other Olympic swimming prospects don’t consider retiring because of this,” Khade wrote.

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The Swimming Federation of India (SFI) requested the Sports Ministry to seek the Home Ministry’s consent for reopening of swimming pools inside sports complexes so elite swimmers could resume training. According to the SFI, opening swimming pools for elite athletes wasn’t the same as “recreational swimming” that remained barred as per the MHA guidelines.

‘Hitting a wall’

Last month, the SFI sought permission from the Sports Ministry, the Indian Olympic Association and the Sports Authority of India to resume training for swimmers who achieved the ‘B’ qualification mark for the Tokyo Games. “Absolutely zero feedback. Regular follow up with MYAS is yielding no results. All appeals to permit elite and competitive training to resume are hitting a wall at MHA. Without MHA permission, no State government willing to permit,” SFI Secretary General, Monal Chokshi told PTI.

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“Unfortunately the decision makers in the MHA seem to think malls and restaurants are safe while allowing top athletes to train in controlled environments is unsafe,” he added.

Six swimmers including Khade, Sajan Prakash and Srihari Natraj, have achieved the ‘B’ qualification in their respective events for the Olympics and are hoping to make the ‘A’ standard.

Noted coach Nihar Ameen also appealed to the Sports Minister - Kiren Rijiju - to look into the matter. “Silence from MYAS is deafening. Appeals to resume training of elite swimmers beg the ear of our honourable minister of sports,” Ameen wrote on Twitter.