Why Bangkok bio-bubble was a nightmare for HS Prannoy

Playing in the Thailand Open badminton tourneys under strict quarantine rules, Prannoy realised the need for psychologists to beat the ills of being in a bio-bubble.

By Naveen Peter ·

Badminton player HS Prannoy hopes that the coming years will see Indian sports invest in the mental health of sportspersons with facilities and services like sports psychologists being readily available when needed. 

The 28-year-old HS Prannoy returned to competitive action at the Asian swing of badminton events earlier this month. He faced a challenging time at the Thailand Open, but it was largely off the badminton court and in the bio-bubble, enforced before the tournament began.

“I wish I had someone to talk to so that I could be calmer before the match and focus on things,” HS Prannoy said. “So, there is social media, tons of messages are coming because you are in a bio-bubble, all these things are big distractions. I think at this point psychologists come into play.

“I hope in next five years, we have a structure where players get the services of a sports psychologist because you never know someone who is struggling with a ranking of 30-40 might just go to the top 10, because of certain tweaks in their planning and preparation."

In Bangkok, the badminton players were subjected to strict quarantine measures with access only to their rooms and the playing or training areas. The athletes staying on the same floor had to take the lift together and were not allowed to use common areas. 

“It was totally new to us. It was the first time we went into a bio-bubble. We didn’t know anything that was going to happen,” HS Prannoy said.

“For two weeks, we couldn’t go out of our rooms. We were only allowed to go for practice, go to the main hall and the bus. We were not allowed to walk outside the stadium.

“After three-four days, you start feeling it mentally. You feel that you can’t go out in the sun. You just sit in the room for 22 hours, since we were only training for two hours. You cannot meet your team-mates. It was a nightmare and after six days, it was taking a toll on me. I was not able to understand how to handle it.”

HS Prannoy’s COVID-19 episode at Thailand Open

HS Prannoy, along with Saina Nehwal, also had to endure a COVID-19 scare after one of their RT-PCR tests returned positive for the novel coronavirus, forcing them to withdraw from the Yonex Thailand Open. But the duo was later included following an antibody IgG test.

“It was one of the most taxing days because from morning till night, we were in the hospital. There was no communication, we were told we have to be in quarantine for 10 days. Our entries were withdrawn but later they said we were free to go,” HS Prannoy said.

“Imagine, coming back at 9:30 in the night from the hospital, and the next day you have a match and then in the morning, you are told that the match is shifted to evening.

“At such junctures, you need someone to share all these things, because as a professional player, you just know how to play and don’t know how to handle all these situations.”

HS Prannoy’s performance at the Asian leg of events, however, left a lot to be desired. An opening-round exit in the Yonex Thailand Open was followed by a second-round loss at the Toyota Thailand Open.