Virdhawal Khade set for comeback at Nationals
Kolkata: All eyes will be on 2010 Asian Games bronze medallist Virdhawal Khade, who will make a comeback after about two years, even as the country's top swimmers, including Sandeep Sejwal, would vie for top honours in the five-day 68th Senior National Aquatic Championship beginning at the Subhas Sarobar tomorrow.
As far as the championship race is concerned, a depleted Karnataka, the reigning champions for last 23 years, will face a big competition from Railways, Maharashtra and Services.
Now a Tahsildar in the Maharashtra government, the lanky 6'3" tall Kolhapur swimmer Khade had pulled out of the Incheon Asian Games this year but his absence was filled in by Delhi lad Sejwal who won a bronze in the 50m breast stroke.
On a high after his Asian Games medal, Sejwal will also be here to bolster Railways field while Khade, who is the national record holder in all free-style sprints from 50m to 400m as well as in the 50m butterfly stroke in which he had a bronze in Guangzhou, will also look to get into the act.
It will be a testing time for the Beijing Olympian Khade as the nationals will also serve as a qualifying meet for the FINA World Championships to be held in Russia in July next year through which one can make the cut for Rio Olympics 2016.
Khade has started training under his coach Nihar Ameen in Bangalore and it would be intersting to see how he fares after a big gap.
The nationals will also be a comeback meet for Delhi swimmer and holder of several national records Richa Mishra after serving a two-year ban for flunking dope tests.
Among the promising ones, 21-year old Railways lad Sajan Prakash, Madhu PS of the Services, Saurabh Sagvekar of Maharashtra, 15-year-old Damini Gowda of Karnataka, and 14-year-old Maana Patel of Gujarat will also look to sizzle in the pool.
Besides Sagvekar who had represented Karnataka last year, the regining champions will also miss out on Pooja Alva who has skipped the meet, while the likes of Aaron DSouza (Police) and Rohit Havaldar (Maharashtra) have switched allegiance to make it tough for them.