India’s Virdhawal Khade marginally bettered his long-standing national record to get closer to his second Asian Games medal as he qualified for the men’s 50m freestyle final by clocking 22.43s which was the third fastest time in the heats. Also Read - Asian Games Bronze Medallist Swimmer Virdhawal Khade May "Consider Retirement" if Pools Remain Shut
Khade, who won a bronze at the Guangzhou Games in 2010, faced stiff competition from Japan’s Shunichi Nakao (22.62) but emerged the fastest in the eight-man heat 5. Also Read - 10th Asian Age Group Championships: India Finish Fourth with 15 Gold, 19 Silver and 18 Bronze Medals
It was a new national record in 50m freestyle as he bettered his own mark of 22.52, set in August 2009 at Asian Age group swimming championships in Japan. FOLLOW HERE FOR LIVE UPDATES Also Read - Jinson Johnson Betters Own 1500m National Record by Winning Silver in Berlin, Qualifies for World Championships
Overall, Khade was third behind China’s Hexin Yu (22.21) and Hong Kong’s Kenneth King Him To (22.38).
Anshul Kothari could not qualify for the final as he finished 28th with a timing of 23.83. He was fastest in heat 1.
“I am keeping fingers crossed but I think medal is within each. I have prepared well in the last one and a half years. It’s a sprint, so you never know what happens in final but I will give myself a chance. It’s possible,” Khade, 26, told PTI.
“The top two may be fitter than me but mentally I am stronger than them. I have experience and I will try to use it in the final.”
Khade said he was pleased with his improvement after making a comeback to the pool.
“After 10 years, I am competing at such a big event. I was also at the CWG also but there, I could not perform to my potential. I had timed 23.11 there, so it is half a second fast. Hopefully, I will be able to cut down more and get a medal.”
On bettering his own national mark and improving upon his timing from CWG, the 26-year-old said, “I have worked on strength and fitness since January with my coach in Bengaluru. I have improved since January in every competition. Regular competition has helped me.”
The final will be held in the evening on Tuesday.
Khade had taken a break from swimming for four years due to job commitment. He works as a Tehsildar for the Maharashtra Government.