After much confusion over resumption dates, training at the National Institute of Sports (NIS) in Patiala and the Sports Authority of India (SAI) centre in Bengaluru reportedly started on Wednesday. This followed the government’s nod to reopen all the stadiums for training without spectators, after which SAI released an updated Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) document via a webinar for the guidelines to follow.
India’s top track and field stars have been under lockdown at NIS Patiala. Meanwhile, some of the race-walkers and India’s senior men’s and women’s hockey teams are staying at SAI Bengaluru. The hockey teams, according to sources, are yet to resume outdoor training.
Before the beginning of the ongoing fourth phase of coronavirus-forced lockdown (May 17 to 31), the government had allowed resumption of training at stadiums across India.
Top Indian paddlers have been home since the middle of March and are in no hurry to return until they feel safer.
“At this point of time, it’s still early, I would say, especially for table tennis. We are not a sport where it’s so physically demanding. It’s more a skill-based sport. So if we can practice even two months before everything starts, we will still be fine,” India’s top-ranked paddler Achanta Sharath Kamal, who was looking good to qualify for his fourth Olympic appearance before COVID-19 struck told TimesofIndia.com.
Sharath added that “nothing is forced upon” the players, who have the support of the TTFI, which is going to propose to the Sports Ministry to start separate ‘voluntary’ national camps for men and women in late June.
“They (TTFI) have given us the choice to start when we want. Nothing is forced upon us.
“When they asked us if we wanted the training camp to restart, we said firstly we don’t know if we would be able to travel, now we have clarity about travel (domestic flight operations resumed from May 25), and also we don’t know if it’s safe. This was the (last) talk I had with the federation…and also we don’t have tournaments coming up. So there’s no point in hurrying back to practice,” said Sharath, a Commonwealth Games and Asian Games medallist, who is ranked No. 31 in the world rankings.
‘NEED TO OVERCOME FEAR’
Sharath’s contemporary and team-mate Sathiyan Gnanasekaran, however, has no such qualms about returning to training, while admitting there will be a certain “fear” factor initially. But he also supported the views of athletes who don’t feel safe yet and want some more time to feel confident about the situation and the safety measures that have been put in place.
“Of course, there is going to be fear coming out, which we have to get used to in the new normal life with COVID-19, which is not going to go away anytime soon,” said Sathiyan, who is ranked just below Sharath — at No. 32 in the world rankings, while talking to Timesofindia.com.
“As an athlete, in my personal opinion, I’m absolutely fine to resume training with all the guidelines. If some of them (other players) don’t want to train yet, it’s their prerogative,” added Sathiyan, who was part of the Indian men’s team that won a historic bronze medal at the 2018 Asian Games.
The Chennai-based Sathiyan also urged the administrators to understand the athletes’ state of mind and provide them support for the mental toll that this pandemic and the lockdown has taken.
“I can understand the athletes are mentally affected and disturbed after going through such a crisis the world has never seen. So I totally understand the perspective of some of the athletes. I think the Federation, the government and the ministry should come up with some counselling and help the athletes to come out of that zone and resume training,” Sathiyan, who is also looking forward to qualifying for the Tokyo Olympics, opined.
CAMP IN LATE JUNE TO BE PROPOSED
The TTFI is going to mail fresh letters to the players, asking for their consent to a camp in the latter part of June, provided it gets the government’s clearance. But it won’t be mandatory for the players to attend the camp.
“This (the camp) is not compulsory, until this pandemic ends,” the TTFI secretary general, MP Singh, told Timesofindia.com.
“We are going to propose (to the government and Sports Ministry) a national camp in the third week of June and fresh letters will be sent to the players for their consent,” Singh added.
The federation will be proposing to hold separate camps for the men and women to more effectively follow social-distancing norms.
“We had initially proposed four centres – Kolkata, Sonipat, Delhi and Patiala; but because of the cyclone, Kolkata will have to be ruled out. So most likely it will be in (NIS) Patiala now, but for that we need the government and Sports Ministry’s approval,” Singh informed.