They are the new faces of Indian swimming. Virdhawal Khade and Sandeep Sejwal, who have just come back from impressive performances at the FINA World Championships in Rome and the Asian Age Group Championships in Tokyo, are looking to take Indian swimming to a whole new high. Both have broken a number of national records and are working hard to make a name for themselves internationally.
HT spoke to both. Excerpts
How do you feel coming off such a successful competition at the Asian Age Group championships?
V K: It was a great way to finish my training stint abroad --- to win four gold and break three national records in the process. Medals and records serve as very effective positive reinforcement to train harder. I am told that in a couple of events I would be the second youngest in the top 100 in the world.
How would you rate your training in Europe in the lead up to the FINA World Championships and the Asian Age Group?
V K: We were fortunate to have this experience training abroad --- right from the local swimming experts involved in Spain, France and Germany, to the excellent facilities that were at our disposal. The areas of improvement have been identified and work has already begun. I would like to thank my coach, Nihar Ameen, and the team at GoSports who supported me and have always believed in my potential.
You were performing well prior to the Worlds, was there any reason why you were not able to clock fast times then?
V K: Unfortunately I had a bit of chest congestion along with cough and cold during the entire World Championships, which held me back.
What do you make of the controversy surrounding the use of the new hi-tech swimsuits?
V K: I do believe the controversy is justified. It is not a level playing field in swimming today — with athletes particularly from Europe and the US having access to the full polyurethane suits that led to an unprecedented number of records.
It must be feeling great, creating national records in all your three events twice over — first at the Worlds and then immediately after in the Asian Age Groups…
S S:I'm happy to have been able to do well on such a big stage as the Worlds and then better those records in the Asian Age Groups. I even surprised myself.
How would you rate your training in Europe in the lead up to the Worlds and Asians?
S S: We had the opportunity to compete in a few important competitions like the Mare Nostrum in Barcelona. I am told that the time I clocked at the Asians would have fetched me a bronze medal at the 2007 Worlds. This is encouraging.
Where do you rate yourself now that you have competed against the best in the world?
S S: I was proud to enter the FINA Top 100 Rankings in all my three events (50, 100 and 200m breaststroke), becoming the only Indian swimmer in 2009 to do so.
I think my performance showed I was on the right track.