Swimmers Virdhawal Khade and Shivani Kataria credit their fathers for their success
The bond kids share with their father figures is unlike any other. The silent reassurance, measured words of advice, even a stern look sometimes works wonders for children. This bond enhances, even more, when a sport is in the picture. A day spent out of the house with fathers is a day well spent.
Virdhawal Khade has multiple national swimming records to his name and has won six gold medals for the nation in the South Asian Games. The Arjuna Award winner has given his countrymen plenty of opportunities to revel in his achievements and performances and he has his father to thank for his persistence and determination.
Shivani Kataria is the fastest women’s 200m swimmer in the country and bagged a gold at the South Asian Games in 2016. The swimmer was quick to applaud her father for everything she has achieved till date.
1. Talk us through one defining moment in your sporting career when your father stood by you and helped guide you.
Virdhawal: The biggest one would definitely have to be the world championships in 2007. They were held in Melbourne in March–April and they were clashing with my 10th board exams. I can't believe till date that he had the faith in me and he let me swim the world championships and he was okay with me not attending my 10th board exams. Luckily I qualified for the Olympics in the meet and also scored 70% in my 10th board exams in October 2007.
Shivani: When I told him I wanted to train in Bangalore because it’s a swimming hub for India and he supported me. My dad moved with me to Bangalore from 2012. He always let me take independent decisions and supported them.
2. Is there a story you remember from your childhood of swimming with your father or getting any advice from them?
Virdhawal: Every single day with my father was a learning curve for me. Not just in my journey towards becoming a sportsman but towards becoming a better man. Among the most prominent things I remember him trying to teach me is to be brave when I raced. He constantly taught me to be absolutely focused when I was going to compete. He would say even if he was the one I was racing against, I had to do my best to beat him.
Shivani: A story I remember from my childhood is when I started the swimming summer camp, my dad used to give me a piggy back ride in the pool for a few months and I used to enjoy that a lot.
3. Tell us about an instance you remember when your father expressed pride in your achievements.
Shivani: When I became the fastest in 200m freestyle, he was so happy that when I finished and walked towards him, he literally picked me up and didn't say a word. I knew he was really proud of me at that moment.
Virdhawal: The only time I remember my father being emotional is when I was at the Rashtrapati Bhavan getting my Arjuna Award in 2011. My father tries to not show his emotions but he doesn't need to show his emotions for me to know that he is proud of me. Right from my first medal to my Arjuna Award and all other achievements have been because he has been my support staff throughout.
4. How does your father motivate you to do better and achieve even greater heights?
Virdhawal: He has a lot of unique ways of doing it. When I was younger he would talk to me a lot about racing and winning. He keeps saying ‘we are the warriors of Shivaji Maharaj, we don't get tired and we don't feel pain.’ I remember whenever I swam multiple events in meets, this is what he would say to me, and who knows, it might have helped me.
Shivani: By providing me with best facilities and motivating me to do better.
5. If your father was the one to introduce you to your sport, how was that experience and what have you learnt from them?
Virdhawal: Initially, I used to hate swimming but I was terrified of my father when I was a kid. I couldn't tell him I didn't want to do it, so I kept swimming because he wanted me to. And looking back, I get it now. Like they say 'Baap Baap Hota Hain'. Most of us understand that very late.