Viraj following in Khade’s wake

Sprint swimmer Virdhawal Khade might have failed to make the cut for the Olympics.

Written by Shivani Naik | Published: July 17, 2012 4:43:13 am

Sprint swimmer Virdhawal Khade might have failed to make the cut for the Olympics. But in the long run,the Asian Games bronze medallist has managed to stir up a few latent ambitions in the pool. Mumbai’s 13-year-old Viraj Prabhu for one was ecstatic when he cracked Khade’s U-14 freestyle records,and he is now fired up about emulating him in the seniors.

At the national age-group championships in Chennai held over the weekend,Prabhu,a student of Fr Agnel School in Vashi,first swam the 50 free in 25.38 seconds,and then returned for the two-lap 100 free clocking 56.15 seconds,to erase Khade’s junior mark of 56.94.

“I was confident about the medals,but i’m thrilled about crossing Khade’s marks,” Prabhu said. Towering over most of his age-group peers at close to 6 feet,Prabhu is blessed with the ideal swimmer’s proto-type physique,and merely 13,has the potential of still shooting up further,not to mention,get stronger.

“I’d done those timings twice in a state and district meet,so I wasn’t surprised,” said the class 9 student,who started out in the pool aged seven.

Coached by Thane coach Gokul Kamat,Viraj,who boasts of a wing-span of nearly 6’2″,gets just two days in either of the Olympic-size pools in Thane,but mostly trains at his 25m facility in the school.

“The school’s been very encouraging,” says the boy who broke the first state record at age 10,and was immediately annointed as a child-prodigy. Yet,it took some time for him to discipline his lanky,well-built limbs into succesful strokes,and now the results are expected to come in a heap. His dad Ashish,a captain on a ship,played basketball,which explains his considerable height,but what has now fallen into place is his temperament during competitions.

“He’s a moody fellow. But I see him going places,” says coach Kamat.

Khade’s non-inclusion at the Olympics,though sad for the swimmer,has poked some of Mumbai’s swimmers into going the extra length,even as he made those timings achievable.

“I want to target the 2016 Olympics,” says the youngster,his enthusiasm,a pitch higher in this Olympic season. Though he has put together a rudimentary plan for diet (non veg proteins,carbs) and kicked off some weight-training in the gym,Prabhu knows the enormity of the challenge. “I’ll start him out in the seniors,because he has out-grown the junior level now. But it could take anywhere between six months and a year to shave off one second from his 50m-timings,” his coach says.

Still,the nationals in September-October when Khade,keen to prove a point,will lash out in the pool like a taunted shark,will also be when Prabhu debuts in the waters of the big fish.

“We’ll keep the goals realistic- 24 seconds by the end of year,but the target will remain the Rio Olympics,” coach Kamat adds. Khade’s biggest moment came in the 50 fly,but Prabhu is poised to add the breast-stroke to his set of events.

“I’m dying to start out in the seniors,” he says,ready to start work on putting together the massive propulsion in the waters. Khade might not have sleepless nights yet,but Viraj Prabhu’s announced his intent,even before London gets underway.

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