For boxers and shooters, a tale of two restarts

4 months ago 39
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On a day the boxing federation decided to put on hold plans for training, India’s shooters were informed that attendance would be compulsory at a proposed preparatory camp. Both camps are scheduled from August 1.

The shooters and boxers are preparing for the Olympics which has been deferred to 2021 because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

A doctor, Amol Patil, associated with the boxing squads tested positive for the novel coronavirus in Patiala on Monday. Patil has been shifted to state-run quarantine centre in the city. Three members of the coaching staff staying with him are under observation.

Though all 11 boxers tested negative for Covid-19, the Boxing Federation of India (BFI) isn’t keen on beginning the camp now.

“Safety is important and not training at this moment,” said Jay Kowli, secretary BFI. “Since we aren’t experts dealing with pandemic, we have sought medical opinion whether to restart the camp from the end of this month.”

By then, 34 shooters, who are part of the Tokyo Olympics core group, will have to report in New Delhi should a plan by the National Rifle Association of India (NRAI) be approved by the Sport Authority of India (SAI). The list includes 15 who have won quota places for India and the reserves in each category.

“It was decided in the governing body meeting of NRAI to start the national camp of the Olympians first. The shooters need to get back to training. Other countries have all started -- USA, Germany, France, Italy. Our shooters should not be demoralised,” said NRAI general secretary DV Seetharama Rao.

Coaches, athletes and support staff will be hosted on the campus of the Manav Rachna University in Faridabad not far from the Karni Singh range which was re-opened by SAI last week. Separate lanes have been made for rifle and pistol shooters at the range, maintaining a gap of at least two firing points between them in keeping with physical distancing norms.

The university, an NRAI partner, will also serve as quarantine and isolation facility for shooters and coaches. “They have a huge complex so we can segregate and take all safety precautions following all the COVID-19 Standard Operating Procedures of SAI. We will appoint a few people to supervise proper hygiene, etc. The place will be completely sanitised and these people will not be able to leave and nobody will be allowed to meet till the camp is on. There will be a SAI medical panel to monitor,” said Rao.

The boxers, including the nine who have qualified for Tokyo, too had planned to resume training and last week, BFI prepared a list of 28 including coaches and support staff who reported in Patiala. Among them were Amit Panghal (52kg) and Ashish Kumar (75kg). Simarnjit Kaur (60kg), Lovlina Borgohain (69kg) and Pooja Rani (75kg) were among the women boxers who reported along with Sonia Lather and Manisha who have been called with an eye on the next Olympic qualifying cycle. Mary Kom, who had qualified in the 51kg, did not and Manish Kaushik (63kg) has a wrist injury and has been excused. Both CA Kuttappa, the men’s head coach, and Mohammed Ali Qamar, chief women’s coach, have joined.

The boxers’ camp got off to a rocky start with Vikas Krishan (69kg) and Satish Kumar (plus 91kg) being asked to leave for violating quarantine norms last weekend.

Patil testing positive was when Covid-19 caught up with the boxing squad. They were training in Italy and had to take an emergency flight out when caseloads spiked. They went to the Olympic qualifier in Jordan where many participants tested positive. The boxers returned to New Delhi in March and the camp was disbanded. After over three months, they had assembled in Patiala.

As per protocol, the boxers were quarantined before entering the main campus of the National Institute of Sport (NIS) in Patiala. Instead of single room, the squad stayed in a dormitory at SAI training centre, 2km from the main NIS campus. Meals would be prepared in NIS’s main kitchen and delivered by a SAI employee.

In March, athletes had been quarantined in NIS. One of the boxers in quarantine said he is not happy with the dormitory. “We aren’t going outside and get meals in the room,” the boxer said requesting anonymity as he isn’t authorised to speak to the media.

“In my opinion we should wait and not rush in having camp,” said Kowli. The sentiment was shared by a coach of the shooting squad. The coach, who did not wish to be named, said travel could be an issue. “Many states are closing borders again with rising cases and travel will be difficult and risky under such circumstances. It won’t be wise. There is no competition right now, so we can wait for some more time,” said the coach.

A shooter also agreed that travelling could be challenging. “We have not been intimated yet. I will see what are the safety protocols being followed and will then decide,” said the shooter.

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