Indian sporting heroes take up the #SafeHandsChallenge

The WHO-recommended social media challenge found plenty of takers among India’s sports fraternity.

By Sandeep Banerjee ·

In wake of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, World Health Organisation (WHO) director Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus launched the Safe Hands Challenge, where everyone is encouraged to wash their hands regularly for 40 seconds to keep themselves safe.

Due to their obvious reach into the masses, celebrities were particularly encouraged by the WHO to participate in the challenge, in an effort to increase awareness.

The response thereafter has been healthy, and many Indian athletes are among those to have stepped up to the challenge.

PV Sindhu

One of the earliest to jump at the Safe Hands Challenge was ace Indian shuttler PV Sindhu, who was seen washing her hands for the entire 27-second duration of the video.

The 24-year-old is fresh from returning from the All England Open, where her challenge ended at the quarter-final stage after losing to Japan’s Nozomi Okuhara.

With the coronavirus outbreak forcing the Badminton World Federation (BWF) to suspend all sanctioned events from March 16 to April 12, and possibly beyond, PV Sindhu will be out of action for a while.

Fortunately, her number seven world ranking will ensure that her presence at the 2020 Olympics won’t be affected.

Hima Das

Hima Das, the current Indian national record holder in 400m with a timing of 50.79 seconds, stopped the clock at about 30 seconds in her hand-wash video.

With a season-best time of 52.09, the Arjuna awardee still has some work to do to reach the 51.35-second Olympic cutoff, and that will be her prime focus heading into the upcoming Indian Grand Prix and the Federation Cup events.

Manu Bhaker

Shooter Manu Bhaker, the youngest Indian to win a gold medal at the ISSF World Cup also clocked in at 30 seconds during her Safe Hands Challenge.

Manu Bhaker, who has secured a quota place for the Tokyo Olympics in the 10m Women’s Air Pistol category, will be a strong medal contender for India later this year.

Jinson Johnson

Jinson Johnson was not too speedy during his wash in the Safe Hands Challenge. The Asian Games gold-medallist took the better part of the WHO-stipulated 40 seconds to ensure every crevice and corner of his hands were soaped up.

One of India’s premier middle-distance runners, Jinson Johnson was on the mend from an Achilles heel injury in November and was planning to mark his comeback with the upcoming Indian Grand Prix or the Federation Cup.

At 3:35.00s, the 1500m specialist’s season-best is just 0.24 seconds off the Olympic cutoff and he will be hoping for as many opportunities as possible before the June 29 deadline to shave off those last few tenths.

Rani Rampal

Indian hockey women’s player Rani Rampal brisked through her wash in around 20 seconds flat so perhaps a bit more practice needed.

However, there’s no such problem when it comes to her hockey game, as the Indian hockey women’s team skipper led her girls to a season-opening win in 2020.

However, the coronavirus outbreak in Europe could hamper Rani Rampal and Co.'s upcoming tour of the Netherlands and Germany from Apr 11-27.

Kiren Rijiju

Finally, Kiren Rijiju himself partook in the Safe Hands Challenge. The Indian sports minister who is at the thick of it all when it comes to managing the uncertainty surrounding the sports scene at the moment rinsed his hands for a good 35 seconds.

The whole time, he also made sure to stress the importance of the initiative to those watching, in order to truly drive home the point.

More Indian athletes, especially those ‘tagged’ by their fellow athletes and celebrities, are expected to hop in and add to the numbers and increase awareness further.

The response to the campaign has been overwhelmingly positive from the start, with the #SafeHandsChallenge used on TikTok used close to half a billion times during the first 48 hours of its launch.