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'Our athletes are in a far better position than many in other countries'

By LAXMI NEGI
May 18, 2020 10:32 IST
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'Most of our elite athletes are in national camps so they are safer.'
'They don't have to go out to buy vegetables or groceries; they are not as exposed as we are.'
'Most of them work for government organisations, they get salaries and stipends.'

Hima Das

IMAGE: Champion runner Hima Das. Photograph: Kind courtesy Hima Das/Twitter

Athletics Federation of India President Adille Sumariwalla targets June 1 to resume training.

The former Olympian, who was National sprint champion for 11 consecutive years, says his federation has worked out a plan for all athletes for the Tokyo Olympics, which has been put off to 2021.

With sporting activities having come to a grinding halt due to the corononavirus pandemic, currently India's elite athletes, including the likes of javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra, quarter-miler Hima Das, shot putter Tajinder Toor, race walker K T Irfan and the men's and women's 4x400 metres relay teams, are training indoors at various national camps during the lockdown.

Track and field athletes have requested the sports ministry to allow them to train within the campuses of the Sports Authority of India centres they are based in but have not got the nod so far.

"Look around, our lives are changing. I believe, the faster you accept the change and move forward, the better. Also, it is a worldwide phenomenon; if all the athletes are accepting the change, then we must also accept the change and move ahead with the times otherwise we die," Sumariwalla tells Laxmi Negi/Rediff.com.

 

What is the Athletics Federation of India's immediate plan now that the Olympics is postponed?

We are in a lockdown, can't do anything. Things will start moving once it starts opening.

Also, there is no international athletics calendar for now.

We will try to resume our domestic competitions from September. The athletes can go back to training again in November.

Then we again start competitions next year, from March-April 2021.

We are guessing that the lockdown would be curbed by June 1 and we have worked a plan for all the athletes backwards from the 2021 Tokyo Olympics.

Weekly details of the training of each and every athlete is given to them and they can get to work from June 1; unless the lockdown is further extended.

With the postponement of the Olympics, we hope that many athletes stand a chance to qualify for Olympics 2021.

It also depends a lot on the situation on the pandemic whether athletes can travel abroad for competitions and training.

At this stage we cannot say anything about any foreign exposure camp later in the year, but, for sure, we will plan for international competitions-cum-training camps for 2021.

How effective is indoor training during this COVID-19 period? How long will it take for athletes to be back to peak fitness once the lockdown ends?

 

Video: Kind courtesy: Neeraj Chopra/Twitter

 

Right now the athletes are concentrating on core fitness.

It is good that they are concentrating on overall fitness. They are not running or throwing, but this time will help them recover from any niggling injuries.

That is why we have competitions in September.

June, July, August will help the athletes in the build-up their fitness.

The Athletics Federation of India Planning Committee held an online meeting with the national campers, coaches and support staff and urged all the athletes to stay mentally strong during the ongoing coronavirus.

Not all the athletes are same; some are mentally strong while some are physically fit.

So, by September, I feel all will reach their peak fitness.

How is the doping and testing schedule being hampered due to this epidemic? What are the plans to keep it active?

Active. Very active.

Also, we must consider that we are in lockdown. The athletes in the camp cannot go out of the campus.

Also, with the advent of blood passports, only an idiot will think of doping because they will be caught.

WADA and NADA are keeping a very watchful eye and it is not easy to dope these days.

What is the future of athletics training methodology in these testing times? Will this change for good?

Nobody has an answer to that. It all depends on how long this pandemic stays.

If by the end of the year it is gone, we go back to our normal lives.

But look around, our lives are changing. I believe, the faster you accept the change and move forward, the better.

Also, it is a worldwide phenomenon; if all the athletes are accepting the change, then we must also accept the change and move ahead with the times otherwise we die.

Most of our elite athletes are in national camps so they are safer.

They don't have to go out to buy vegetables or groceries; they are not as exposed as we are.

They are in a better position than most of the athletes of other countries. Most of them work for government organisations, they get salaries and stipends.

Our athletes are in a far better position than many in other countries.

Adille Sumariwalla

IMAGE: Adille Sumariwalla is also an IAAF Council Member. Photograph: Yifan Ding/Getty Images for IAAF

What safety precautions should athletes ensure that the federation wants to convey to athletes across the country?

All the safety measures we sent out to them almost more than a month ago.

What is the current situation with regard to NIS Patiala, Bengaluru, in terms of ensuring that it does not get effected by a coronavirus outbreak?

For almost two months the athletes have not stepped out of the stadiums. They are getting restless, but we are stressing on safety right now.

Are there any plans to have a state-of-the-art training facility for athletics like there are abroad?

I believe that more than brick and mortar you need an eco system.

How can we create ideal weather, how can we give them the best quality salads or meat?

I can lay down a synthetic turf and build five-star hotels, but from where will we get them different levels of competition?

When our athletes go to Europe, due to conducive weather they can train for more hours without losing more lactic acid.

They start with smaller competitions and once they get acclimatised they participate in bigger competitions and then the Diamond League.

All these things are not possible in India.

How proactive is Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju in terms of supporting your cause and promoting athletics?

Of course, he has been very helpful. He listens to the athletes, federation. Work gets done faster.

Sometimes bureaucrats don't want to move; then we have to go to the minister. He is always ready to help.

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IPL 2020

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