Rujuta Khade leaves a mark, wins single national single gold

PUNE Virdhawal and the union of Rujuta Khade was not made in heaven. The couple's cupid was, unusually, the pool of Khar Gymkhana in Mumbai. In 2016, when Virdhawal was preparing for the 2018 Asian Games, he met this 20-year-old girl who was on a break from competitive swimming.

Rujuta, nee Bhatt, had put her career on hold for a while back then. And even after tying the knot with Virdhawal, she did not enter the pool to race. It was only for the leisure.

On Monday, the 23-year-old left a mark in the national swimming in Bhopal, earning gold in the 50-meter freestyle event with a time of 26.72 seconds. She beat Maharashtra, companion of state Kenisha Gupta , who was the winner at the same event at Khelo India Youth Games in January of this year.

It was Rutuja's single single medal in the Nationals after playing her debut event in 2013. She is playing against her third major Nationals.

Rujuta's return began last year in November with the goal of reducing the weight he had gained after his wedding in 2017. It had been a long time and I only resumed because swimming was the best exercise I knew, Rujuta told TOI.

Along with her quest to regain physical fitness, Rujuta was also agitated for not being able to closely observe her husband's careers. I didn't want to sit in the stands and watch Vir's careers. Then, in September, when I was competing in an event in Singapore, Mr. Nihar (Ameer) told me to register as well. And I was surprised by my own time (27.76) since I was competing for the first time after 2015, ”he said.

Monday's medal was also his first in the nationals. The moment has ensured its entry into the Asian age groups championships that will be held in Bangalore from September 24.

Rutuja won another gold medal on Tuesday, this time with his spouse in the 4x50m mixed relay, where the Maharashtra team registered 1: 39.69 to beat the 1: 40.00 record.

Virdhawal, who created a meet record in the 50m butterfly event with 24.19s, also made the cut for the tournament. The couple trains at the Padukone-Dravid sports center in Bengaluru while Virdhawal travels to Mumbai for his posting in the collector’s office. Virdhawal was the youngest ever swimmer from India to qualify for Olympics in 2008.

Rujuta insists that Virdhawal never nagged her to return competitively. “I felt the pressure of being country’s top swimmer’s wife but Vir never forced me to return. In fact, I've told me to take my time and think about it, ”she said.

Two gold medals in the nationals have inspired Mumbai's girl to compete in more events and she is aware that at 23 she has enough free time to get more medals.