‘Flew to Tbilisi for training, got locked down instead’
Top athletes talk to HT about their experience of dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic. This is Jasleen Singh Saini, the 66kg national judo champion from Punjab who is currently stuck in Tbilisi, Georgia.Updated: Apr 23, 2020 16:32 IST
I began the 2020 season on a promising note, finishing in the top 16 in the 66kg group in the Grand Slam competition in Dusseldorf, Germany, in February. My confidence boosted and with a hope of cementing a place in the Indian contingent for the Tokyo Olympics, I continued to train hard.
It wasn’t a smooth road to earn a berth for the Olympics. In order to earn a direct qualification, I had to crack the top 30 of the world rankings, and participating in as many international competitions as possible was the only way I could bolster my current ranking of 54.
However, I got a big jolt in the first week of March when along with a few other aspiring judokas, I wasn’t allowed to board a flight to compete in an international event in Morocco. Due to the Covid-19 outbreak, other international events too were cancelled by the sport’s world governing body. I was confused, but not discouraged.
That was the time I decided to train in Tbilisi, Georgia, because it has good facilities as well as sparring partners. The national federation doesn’t charge any money to use its facilities. One also gets an opportunity to train with the elite athletes. Moreover, the country isn’t expensive to stay. Keeping all those things in mind, I boarded the flight for the exposure tour in the second week of March. But I didn’t anticipate that the training centre will be locked down and I will be confined to the four walls of my room. I haven’t trained for almost a month now, although there is enough food stock.
But the main aim of polishing my skills hasn’t been achieved so far. I have no idea when things will get normal; when will I start training on the mat again; when will international competition resume. Everything is uncertain right now.
At the moment, I’m trying to stay fit with some basic exercises at home. I also see videos of my previous bouts and other international competitions to keep myself busy.
I can’t leave this place as other European nations too have closed their borders, and nor can I come back to India. But I’m not disheartened at all. Despite my training intensity and hours being reduced to minimum, I have the confidence of bouncing back when the things get normal.
(As told to Navneet Singh)