Elite athletes can soon resume training, assures Indian sports minister

Kiren Rijiju said that athletes who have qualified for the Olympics or have important qualifying events coming up will be prioritised.

Union Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju has assured that the authorities are working towards allowing athletes access to open-field training in a phased manner.

Speaking at a webinar, ‘Corona & Sports: The Champions Speak’, organised by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce & Industry (FICCI), the Sports Minister said that his office was busy figuring out ways to let the elite bunch step out and resume practice at the earliest.

“First of all, we will identify those players and teams who have qualified for the Olympics. Since the Olympics is next year, we have time. Those Indian players who are going to figure in Olympic qualification matches, we will allow them to practise,” he said.

“I know if players go through a gap of three-four months, it will harm their entire approach,” he said elaborating the reason behind the approach the ministry had taken.

“I wanted them to start playing from May 3, from today, but the National Disaster Management Act does not permit this, legally. Sporting events are not under the necessary list, they are not of essential requirement. So, it does not get the relaxation.”

Athletes and federations were hoping that the government would consider the situation and allow at least the bunch caught up in areas with no COVID-19 presence to resume training. 

An announcement on the future course of action was expected post-May 3 when the second phase of the lockdown was to end.

However, the central government has made no such expectations while announcing that the nationwide lockdown in India was further extended for two weeks from May 4 onwards.

The Sports Minister, however, stated that the athletes could expect some relaxations in lockdown rules in the coming days.

“Tomorrow or day after, I will sit in a meeting (to identify the way forward) and I assure my players that they can expect some kind of relaxation from the ministry that will allow them to practise,” he said.

Sparring in boxing conditional

Later, speaking to boxers through a video conference, Kiren Rijiju said while he didn’t see any national camps resuming shortly, the athletes who have qualified for the Olympics or have important events coming up could be given an exception with a common camp for the elite boxers.

“We can't open all the coaching centres, so we will allow only for elite athletes. Junior camps have to wait for some time as safety will be a priority,” he said.

The Boxing Federation of India is working towards getting their elite bunch for a camp in the coming weeks.

However, boxers can only resume sparring once medical check-ups and quarantine protocols are established to ensure the safety of the pugilists amid the coronavirus outbreak.

“We will have to discuss with technical officials, high-performance directors, and most importantly health professionals to assess the precautions we have to put in place before our athletes begin practising with their sparring partners,” Kiren Rijiju pointed out.

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