National events have been on hold since March when the AFI decided to suspend the India Grand Prix.
Ace Indian sprinter Hima Das finally resumed her outdoor training after more than two months at the National Institute of Sport on Wednesday.
Having returned from a long-term back injury, Hima Das was one of the many athletes who had arrived in Patiala to compete at the Indian Grand Prix in March earlier this year.
However, with the Athletic Federation of India (AFI) suspended the event due to the escalation of the coronavirus outbreak, the athletes were confined to their hotels there owing to the national lockdown.
The Assam-sprinter, who won the gold medal at the 2018 World U-20 Championships, was shifted to the 200m event ahead of the Tokyo Olympics as she was asked to focus on speed and endurance.
However, with the Summer Games now postponed by a year to 2021 and the World Athletics (IAAF) suspending all the qualifying events until the end of the year, Hima Das has a realistic chance of giving her pet 400m event a shot next year.
“Ups and downs are always part of an athlete’s career. I believe life is all about making a comeback and working towards your goals,” Hima Das told the Times of India.
“As an athlete, it’s very important to stay focused towards your goals and keep working hard. Definitely, the goal is to win an Olympic medal,” added the sprinter who took to the track by following the sports ministry’s new Standard Operating Procedure (SOP).
Apart from Hima Das, the NIS-Patiala facility also had top athletes like Neeraj Chopra, Tejinder Pal Singh and others coming out in small groups of three to four in three different grounds, fully kitted with their face masks on.
The first phase of the 10-day training saw the athletes practicing numerous safety measures like social distancing, abstaining from spitting on the ground, using foot-pedal sanitisers kept at the ground among other things.
Having kept himself busy with the gym inside the facility for the past two months, getting back to the field was satisfying for India’s javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra, who qualified for the Tokyo Olympics in January this year.
“It was a nice feeling to get to the grass ground. We did some running and light exercises,” Neeraj Chopra told Hindustan Times.
“It was the first day so we did not push ourselves. We will continue to do light training for some more days,” he added.
However, while the athletes await their coaches to chalk out a plan to get them back to full fitness, NIS-Patiala hasn’t allowed the top coaches inside the facility.
All the top four coaches - chief coach Bahadur Singh, middle and long-distance running coach JS Bhatia, German biomechanic expert Klaus Bartonietz, and sprint coach Galina Bukharina - are above 65 years of age and they cannot accompany the athletes inside the facility as per the SOP.