Eyes on Tokyo, Abhishek Verma undeterred by COVID-19 vaccine risks

The 2018 Asian Games bronze medallist is willing to brave any side-effects from a COVID-19 vaccine in order to participate at the Tokyo Olympics later this year.

By Utathya Nag ·

With the COVID-19 vaccine just around the corner and a handful of countries having already started the rollout process, discussions on possible side-effects have dominated the global media lately. But Indian shooter Abhishek Verma isn't too concerned.

The 10m Air Pistol specialist, who is looking ahead to his maiden Olympic Games in Tokyo later this year, is ready to brave the odds for an opportunity to make India proud at the hallowed Olympic stage. 

“Nothing else matters when it comes to playing at the Olympics. Whatever side-effects are there from the COVID-19 vaccine, we have to accept that," Abhishek Verma told the Times of India

“We haven't made any talks of possible side-effects much of an issue in our minds. We must take all safety measures,” Verma added. 

While it may still be too early to comment exactly on the possible side-effects of the vaccines, short-term effects have largely been limited to mild fevers and allergies. 

The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) along with the International Olympic Committee (IOC), have also been closely monitoring the vaccine situation to ensure safety of the athletes and determine any possible impact of the vaccine on doping regulations.

Getting vaccinated, however, hasn't been made mandatory yet to participate at the Tokyo Olympics. 

IOC president Thomas Bach, during his Tokyo visit in November, noted that it would be a 'free decision' but appealed to the athletes to consider it as a 'sign of respect' to fellow athletes and the host nation Japan. 

Abhishek Verma, who secured a quota place for Tokyo after winning the gold medal at the 2019 ISSF World Cup gold medal at Beijing, agrees wholeheartedly. 

“First thing is that I have to play the Olympics and for that I have to get vaccinated. (Otherwise) it will not be safe for our co-athletes,” Verma said. 

A government parliamentary panel recently recommended that athletes, coaches and support staff in India's contingent for Tokyo be put in the priority list for COVID-19 vaccinations in the country.

“It's good that the parliamentary committee gave that suggestion. If we get vaccinated, we can travel safely and with a free mind,” Verma stated, welcoming the suggestion.

The Chandigarh-based shooter has been training in Bhopal under India’s junior pistol coach Jaspal Rana to keep himself ready for Tokyo. Verma’s fellow Olympic hopefuls Manu Bhaker, Chinki Sinha, Sunidhi Chauhan and Aishwarya Pratap Singh – all from India’s core group of shooters – are also in Bhopal.