After waiting out lockdown phase, India second-rung athletes sent out of national camp

June 9, 2020, Patiala

Sports, AthleticsNational Camp


As the country’s second rung of talent they were bunched with the elite group of track and field competitors and waited out nearly two months indoors at Sports Authority of India’s (SAI) Patiala centre, waiting for the nationwide lockdown due to the pandemic to be lifted. Now that clearance for outdoor training has been given and the Olympic core group has started afresh, this group of 20 were released last week and left wondering how to resume training in their home bases, which have varying levels of restrictions due to Covid-19.

Their leaving the national camp at Patiala’s National Institute of Sports last week could also result in a depleted field when domestic competition resumes, likely in September/October.

The Athletics Federation of India (AFI) said only Olympic hopefuls and those close to achieving the qualifying standard for the postponed Tokyo Games can train in Patiala, as per SAI guidelines. “The clearance is for Olympic probables only,” AFI president Adille Sumariwalla said. “The government wants fewer numbers in the camp. We have to stick to the guidelines.”

The athletes resumed outdoor training from the third week of May.

Javelin throwers, Asian Games and CWG champion Neeraj Chopra and Shivpal Singh, Avinash Sable (men’s 3000m steeplechase) and KT Irfan and Bhawana Jat (20km race walk) have qualified for Tokyo in individual events. The 4x400m mixed relay team has also qualified.

“The elite 400m men and women apart from throwers (javelin men and discus women) are among 25 athletes currently training in Patiala,” a coach attached with the camp said. “Irfan is training in Bengaluru while Bhawana is based in Jaipur and training on her own.”

Many of the athletes released were disappointed as facilities are yet to open across the country. Mumbai-based 400m sprinter Aishwarya Mishra says her home town is in the red zone, ruling out outdoor training. “We were in the camp during lockdown but when training started we had to leave,” she said over phone from Mumbai.

Over 40 athletes were stuck indoors in NIS during the lockdown. Last week, SAI made travel arrangements for those released to return home. “We were prepared to give our best, but the domestic calendar got cancelled. Now we are out of the camp and have to make own arrangements to train,” said Punjab javelin thrower Davinder Singh Kang.

The Army thrower entered the final of the 2017 London World Championships and has a personal best of 84.57m. The Olympic qualifying mark is 85m.

Rahul Kumar, with a personal best of 3:42 secs in 1500m, fortunately has a ground near his village in Uttar Pradesh’s Bulandshahr district. “I’m in a green zone and safe. I go out early morning and do general fitness training,” he said.

Mishra also bemoaned the absence of domestic competition that prevented her from raising her performance. “I had trained hard to break my personal best of 54 secs (400m) in March. It would have helped me graduate to the main group. Since all events got cancelled, the athletes should have got the benefit of doubt,” she said. “We’ve to wait till the national meet in October to make the grade.”

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