How the coronavirus pandemic has affected Indian sportspersons
The world of sports has come to a grinding halt due to the restrictions that have been put in place to stem the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. Everything from Olympic qualifiers, international and domestic athletics tournaments and cricket series have been affected. The Sports Ministry’s latest advisory that came on Thursday led to suspensions of all training camps until April 15. Exception was given to those athletes who have qualified for the Olympics or are on the verge of qualification and they too have to take permission from their respective sports federation for availing facilities outside of their homes to train.
The Indian men’s and women’s hockey teams are both holed up in the Sports Authority of India’s (SAI) Bengaluru centre. The women’s team was supposed to be having a one-week break which was part of the four-week camp. While a few of them decided to stay at home, the others got to know on Saturday that SAI had decided to cancel their tickets. This included head coach Sjoerd Marijne.
Marijne said that he had a meeting with the players on Monday in which he told them that they have to focus on July 24 -- the scheduled starting date for the Tokyo Olympics. “As long as we don’t hear anything else, we keep focussing on our programme,” he said. “They were very disappointed that they couldn’t go home but they understand the situation which is the most important thing.
“You will be disappointed if you don’t see your family for four weeks. They really needed that break. A break is not just physical it is also mental -- seeing your family, away from the environment where they always train. So now we have to deal with these kind of things and it is what it is.”
Men’s coach Graham Reid said that the staff is looking to make the players play volleyball and other sports tournaments among themselves to keep them focussed on the task at hand. He also said that the staff is mulling Olympic simulation tournaments within the camp. “Coming up over the next month or so we are planning a tournament to replicate the Olympics -- playing 8 games in 13 days and we’ll be picking four different combinations for that,” he said.
Currently, they are trying to show the players how important the inter squad matches are. “We can make these games as competitive as normal matches and so we will be trying to ramp it up. We have 32 players in the squad which means we can have two full teams,” he said.
Boxing coach Santiago Nieva said that the members of the Indian boxing contingent, which included top boxers in the country like Mary Kom and Amit Panghal, are all under the mandatory 14-day quarantine. Nieva said that it doesn’t affect their plans too much for now as this was supposed to be a rest period for the boxers anyhow. “10 days we had planned but now it becomes 14 days. So after 10 days I am working on a training programme which I will send them. After this period they can start on that. If this is not solved within two weeks then we will have to continue like this as best as we can,” Nieva told IANS.
Those boxers who had not qualified were kept in the national camp but that is set to be wound up because of the ministry’s advisory on Thursday.
India’s elite shooters were all involved in the last set of Olympic shooting trials on March 18. They are at their respective homes now after cancellation of the national camps. The National Rifle Association of India (NRAI) also postponed a meeting of its Tokyo Olympics selection committee.
Wrestlers such as Vinesh Phogat and Bajrang Punia who were in training camps outside had to return and those in training camps in the country are now back home after the ministry’s advisory. A Wrestling Federation of India official said that he knows of Bajrang who has sought permission to continue his training.
Outside of the Olympic fold, boxer Vijender Singh feels that his next professional bout that he had earlier said was scheduled for May will have to be postponed. “We had planned for a bout in May but because of coronavirus the date has been shifted. I don’t know when we will get the new date so, very much in Delhi right now and training at home,” he told IANS.
“I am just doing cardio and some conditioning. push-ups, chin-ups -- those types of exercises. I am just trying to stay fit at the moment. I don’t think we will get a new date any time soon.”
Indian football captain Sunil Chhetri last played in the second leg of Bengaluru FC’s Indian Super League semi-final against ATK on March 8. He would have been busy in preparations for India’s World Cup and Asian Cup qualifier against Asian champions Qatar that was scheduled to happen on March 26 but FIFA and the Asian Football Confederation announced that all qualification matches in March and June are on hold.
On Friday, Chhetri had an interaction with fans on Twitter in which he gave a glimpse into his life under self-isolation. “The wife and I have locked ourselves in for the last 5 days. We’ve given the cook and the house help days off, so the both of us are now sharing chores and making meals,” he said.
India’s star cricketers are at their respective homes and have been tweeting about the virus and precautions that are to be taken. Indian limited overs vice-captain Rohit Sharma was among the players who were rehabilitating from injuries at the National Cricket Academy. However the NCA has since shut its operations due to the virus.
Indian captain Virat Kohli retweeted a video tweeted by his wife and Bollywood star Anushka Sharma in which they appealed to their fans to heed the advice from the government on the pandemic. He also tweeted: “Be alert, attentive and aware to combat the threat posed by the Covid 19. We, as responsible citizens, need to adhere to the norms put in place for our safety as announced by our Honourable Prime Minister Shri @NarendraModi ji. #IndiaFightsCorona
“Also, special mention to all the medical professionals in the country and around the globe for all the efforts being put in to fight the #CoronaVirus. Let’s support them by taking care of ourself and everybody around us by maintaining good personal hygiene. #IndiaFightsCorona”.