A match official places a new shuttlecock on a racket during day two of YONEX All England Open Badminton Championships at Birmingham Barclaycard Arena.(Getty Images)
A match official places a new shuttlecock on a racket during day two of YONEX All England Open Badminton Championships at Birmingham Barclaycard Arena.(Getty Images)

Plan to start vaccination drive from next month, Sports Ministry tells top shuttlers

  • Sports Ministry and BAI spoke to top players to take stock of Olympics preparation of shutters after the Asian leg
By Avishek Roy
PUBLISHED ON FEB 07, 2021 10:43 PM IST

The sports ministry, in a high-powered meeting with Badminton Association of India and some of India’s top shuttlers to take stock of preparation for the Tokyo Olympics, has discussed the start of vaccination drive for the Tokyo Olympics-bound athletes from next month.

The meeting, chaired by secretary-sports, Ravi Mittal, on Friday had PV Sindhu, Kidambi Srikanth, B Sai Praneeth, Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty in attendance. TOPS CEO Rajesh Rajagopalan and BAI secretary Ajay Singhania also attended.

Badminton’s Olympics qualification period, suspended in March last year because of Covid-19, will resume with the Swiss Open from March 2-7, followed by German Open (March 9-14) and will extend up to the India Open in May.

The players were told the ministry will try and begin the vaccination drive next month. Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju has already said Olympics-bound athletes, coaches and support staff will be vaccinated on priority from the ministry. India’s vaccination phase was launched on January 16 with priority given to health care and frontline workers.

In the meeting, the players enquired about the interval between the two shots as they will be abroad on tour next month. There has to be a gap of 28 days between the two doses of Covid-19 vaccine.

When contacted, BAI secretary Singhania said no dates have been finalised. “The ministry only said they will try and start vaccinating Olympics-bound athletes from next month,” he said.

Chirag Shetty, who was part of the meeting, said he would like to get the vaccination as early as possible.

“I will definitely take it, even if it is 90 % efficient. It will be a big relief, especially seeing the situation the Indian team faced in Thailand.

Indian players had to withdraw and our participation was in doubt. If we are vaccinated and develop antibodies we won’t face such situations. We don’t want to be going through all this when the focus is Olympics qualifiers,” he said.

Single room occupancy and better injury management

The Indian contingent had a tough time during the Asian leg in Thailand, playing three back-to-back tournaments, because of strict Covid protocols. The entire team was labelled high risk and the coaches and physios were not allowed in the arena on the first day after Saina Nehwal and HS Prannoy tested positive. They were later cleared after confirmation of antibodies as both had just recovered from Covid.

In the second week, Srikanth was forced to withdraw as per protocols, after roommate B Sai Praneeth tested positive, which later turned out to be a false positive. BAI then spoke to the world body and got Srikanth’s mandatory 14-day quarantine reduced so that he could participate in the Super Series Finals.

In the meeting, the players requested, in order to avoid such situations, single occupancy for accommodation, which was accepted.

“We will see to it that they are provided single rooms from the next time and all precautions are taken as far as protocols are concerned,” said Singhania.

Singhania has also written to world body BWF on Sai Praneeth’s case calling for more coordinated efforts to see that Indian players do not suffer during the Olympic qualifiers.

BAI’s recommendation to rope in Danish Olympics silver medallist Mathias Boe as doubles coach was recently granted by SAI. Boe has started training sessions with Satwik and Chirag—they are on the verge of Tokyo Olympics qualification— at the national camp in Hyderabad. BAI has requested Boe to accommodate the second rung doubles players like MR Arjun and Dhruv Kapila, to spar with the main team.

“It was big support from the ministry and BAI to get Mathias as our coach at this crucial juncture when we are getting ready for the qualifiers. His knowledge of doubles and tactical coaching has been hugely beneficial to us and we saw that in our performance in Thailand,” said Chirag, who has been taking sessions from Boe in Mumbai after the lockdown.

In another meeting of BAI with Mission Olympic Cell, injury management was discussed as some of the top players have access to personal physios through the TOPS scheme. The players have been asked to compulsorily submit fitness reports ahead of the selection meetings and before the start of national camps.

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