Elite Indian wrestlers such as Bajrang Punia (right) and Ravi Dahiya were into their final preparations for Tokyo Olympics when Covid-19 pandemic hit the world (Pic: wrestling.tv).
The threat of Covid-19 spreading amongst the grapplers post resumption of training has prompted the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) to postpone the restart of national camps. There was a plan to restart camps for elite men and women freestyle and Greco-Roman wrestlers at the Sports Authority of India’s (SAI) Sonepat and Lucknow centres.
The federation’s decision against resumption came after objections from the country's elite wrestlers preparing for the Tokyo Olympics and the qualifiers, say reports. They, apparently, raised concerns about the situation not being apt for resumption of camps, especially since the Covid-19 infections are on the rise.
Wrestlers fear that their sport can’t be completely secured from coronavirus since it is impossible to avoid contact while training. Taking the inherent nature of the sport into account, reopening camps could bring about disastrous consequences.
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"It's not possible to hold camps in Sonepat and Lucknow under present circumstances. Wrestlers are worried about their well-being because ours is a contact sport and the federation understands their concern. The virus hasn't been showing signs of any let-up.So, the training camps won't be resuming.We don't intend to risk their lives after reservations expressed by our elite wrestlers who represent India internationally," a WFI official informed.
"Moreover, our foreign coaches are not present in India.So, there's no point resuming the physical training without chief coaches. There's another problem: lack of clarity about the inter-state movement of citizens as specified in Lockdown 4.0. State governments haven't formulated their guidelines regarding this yet. So, how would our women wrestlers in Haryana and Punjab travel to Lucknow. Similarly,how will men's freestyle wrestlers reach Sonepat?" the official added.
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The WFI initially planned to resume training camps for six weight categories (except for 97kg) in the men's freestyle, five in the women's freestyle (except for 72kg and 76kg) and three in Greco-Roman, and only three wrestler per weight category would have been allowed in the camps.
Sports minister Kiren Rijiju had recently indicated plans for step by step resumption of sports activities. The opening of stadiums and sports complexes prompted the sports ministry to mull the first steps towards the goal. But, with the SAI's exhaustive 'Standard Operating Procedure' (SOP) guidelines that still require clearance from the home and health ministries, none of the training camps have resumed at SAI's Patiala and Bengaluru centres.
To make matters tricky, a cook from the SAI Bengaluru centre, who visited the facility for a meeting, died of cardiac arrest earlier this week. He then tested positive for coronavirus which led to lockdown of the centre as well as self-quarantine of the personnel the deceased came in contact with.
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