Hockey camps extended, exposure trip shelved due to Covid travel restrictions
The Indian men and women’s hockey probables will continue to prepare for next year’s Tokyo Olympics at Bengaluru’s Sports Authority of India (SAI) campus. SAI has extended the camps by two months as a proposal to tour Netherlands for practice matches had to be shelved due to the travel restrictions because of Covid-19 pandemic.
The men’s camp, which started in early August, will continue till November 28 and the women’s team will train until December 12 after the request to tour Europe was turned down, SAI said in a statement to HT.
The camp was originally scheduled till September 30. The players had started sport-related activities on August 19 after a mandatory quarantine of two weeks. Six male players had tested positive for Covid-19 on returning to Bengaluru after a month’s break, having initially been confined to the SAI Southern Centre during a three-month nationwide Covid-19 lockdown.
Extending the camps is a relief for the coaching staff as players would face a health risk travelling home.
The tour not going through is a blow as the players have not have had many matches this year. The proposal was to tour Netherlands to play against European teams during the Pro League clashes in October end.
SAI has allowed elite swimmers Srihari Nataraj, Kushagra Rawat and Sajan Prakash to train in Dubai and boxer Vikas Krishan to travel to the United States for training, though the hockey team will present a far greater logistics challenge.
“The national camps are to be extended as the teams are not going to Netherlands, as had been planned, due to Covid-19 travel restrictions,” SAI said.
The coaches would have wanted some matches after the camps as the probables regain peak fitness and are keen to make amends for lost opportunities this year.
The men’s team last played in the FIH Pro League in January-February, against Netherlands, Belgium and Australia. The women’s team has not played a match since the tour of New Zealand in January when it figured in five exhibition matches. Its exposure trip to China in March was cancelled due to the pandemic.
The men will resume their Pro League campaign in April in the build-up to Tokyo Olympics (July 23-August 8). The women’s team is not in the Pro League and coach Sjoerd Marijne had hoped to organise some practice games in Netherlands against teams that feature in that tournament.