Indian authorities aim to keep athletes active during lockdown

Even the delivery of gym equipment for training and ammunition for shooters are being considered by the Indian sports ministry.

Indian sports minister Kiren Rijiju and the Sports Authority of India (SAI) have begun taking measures to ensure the well-being of the athletes amid the national lockdown.

With most athletes restricted to their homes and some stuck in designated training facilities, the sporting authorities are taking necessary steps to keep them engaged both physically and mentally in what has been a difficult time.

It has been mandated that every athlete should reach out to their coaches through digital mediums so that their training and fitness can be monitored. This is just one of the moves to ensure 'maximum use' of the period given the circumstances.

Online workshops, such as Facebook Live seminars presented by sportspersons and experts, facilitated by SAI, have come to the fore of late to help expand the knowledge base of the athletes.

All initiatives taken by SAI and the ministry have been reviewed by Kiren Rijiju in a meeting he held with the SAI centres' regional directors via a video conference.

"The meeting was held to take a brief about what these centres are doing to keep the athletes' morale high and keep them engaged," a SAI official told the Press Trust of India news agency.

The Indian hockey men and women's team are currently held up in the SAI centre in Bengaluru while a few other athletes are stuck in the National Institute of Sports in Patiala, where they have been advised to follow lockdown protocols. These are the only two centres which are currently occupied.

Gym equipment, ammunition and allowances

Focus has also been laid on elite athletes and those who come under the Target Olympic Podium Scheme (TOPS), a national programme which identifies, grooms and prepares potential medal prospects for the Olympic Games. As of last month, TOPS has 94 athletes under its ambit.

"For example, in case of the athletes who don't have access to gym equipment, we are coordinating with the local gyms and getting the portable equipment delivered at an athlete's home," an unnamed official from SAI told Sportstar.

"For shooters who have got ranges installed at home, we are trying to provide them with ammunition so that they continue with their training," he added.

Besides equipment, psychologists and nutritionists will also be made available to counter the effects of the isolation period.

The Indian sports ministry also assured that athletes who receive monthly allowances will not be affected despite a proposed 10 per cent budget cut directed by the country's finance ministry.

"We would have enough funds to ensure all possible ongoing activities, including payment of monthly allowance to players, salaries, pension and other committed liabilities," Indian sports secretary Radhey Shyam Julaniya told the Indian Express.

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