The latest setback happened at the Dr Karni Singh Shooting Range (DKSSR) in Delhi, where a coach tested positive for COVID-19 on Thursday. The Sports Authority of India (SAI) assuaged fears with its statement that “she (the coach) did not visit the field of play or interacted with any athlete training at the centre”, but the fact remains that the coach had been inside the DKSSR campus, where a few of the core-group shooters have been training over the last couple of weeks.
It further disrupted the National Rifle Association of India‘s (NRAI) plans to hold a national camp for shooters, which was initially planned for an August 1 start, but now stares at another uncertain period of waiting and watching.
The story with hockey isn’t much dissimilar.
The men’s and women’s teams left for their homes in June for a break, after spending the entire period of lockdown at the SAI centre in Bengaluru. The national camp for both the teams was supposed to resume at the same venue on July 19, but the cases of coronavirus spiked in Karnataka and the state government announced a further one-week lockdown from July 15.
The players now wait for an official communication from Hockey India.
The boxing camp finally got underway at the National Institute of Sports (NIS) in Patiala at the start of this month, but it too faced an unexpected hiccup.
Some of the boxers arriving at the venue broke the quarantine protocol and left their rooms to enter the mess area. However, things finally fell in place and 15 boxers are currently training there.
Some of the track-and-field athletes and weightlifters, including Neeraj Chopra and Mirabai Chanu, had already resumed their training at NIS before the boxers arrived.
The Cycling Federation of India (CFI) had in May planned to move its proposed camp from Delhi to Manipur on the grounds of Manipur being a safer venue, but those plans have not been executed, with the NIS in Patiala now likely to be the venue for a short camp.
Sports federations have their hands tied
The derecognised status of all National Sports Federations (NSF) has tied their hands, with all the decisions related to national camps largely under SAI’s jurisdiction in the current scenario.
The recognition of 54 NSF’s was extended by the Sports Ministry until September 30 this year, but the ministry was forced to withdraw that order in late-June after the Delhi High Court asked to maintain status quo until further orders.
Cycling Federation of India and SAI officials to meet
The continued nature of events amid the fluid, ever-changing pandemic graph has left both NSFs and SAI in an apprehensive state, though the federations are continuing with their efforts to get going.
A Cycling Federation of India official told Timesofindia.com that they are “scheduled to have a meeting with SAI today (Friday, July 31) ” and hope to get an approval for a camp in Patiala soon.
“Even the doctors treating patients are at risk, but they can’t stop doing that. You guys in the media too are at danger from the virus. So we too have to start at some point,” the official further said.
Hockey camp from August 4?
Reports suggest the hockey camp in Bengaluru is likely to begin on August 4 now. However, SAI is yet to confirm that.
Sources said that Hockey India has shot down the Karnataka government’s idea of “institutionalised quarantine” of players once they return to Bengaluru. Plus there have been unconfirmed reports of another coronavirus-positive case within the SAI campus there. The foreign coaching staff is currently living on campus, as they couldn’t fly back home since the international borders are closed.
It has left “SAI very apprehensive”, said the source.
Even if the players were to return for the camp in the first week of August, it won’t be until September that they can resume training, after a two-week long mandatory quarantine period and one week of observation.
“So far there has been no official communication,” one of the players from the senior national team had told Timesofindia.com on Wednesday.
NRAI aiming for August 17 as start date for revised camp
In shooting, the NRAI is now looking at August 17 as the next possible start date for the national camp. The federation has been sending SMSes to the shooters to know their opinion on the revised plans.
“Received a message from NRAI asking if I have an issue with joining the camp from 17th August,” said one of the shooters from the core group.
At present, only 8-10 of the core-group shooters, who live in Delhi or close-by regions, are training at DKSSR. However, Manu Bhaker, who had shifted to her other house in Faridabad near DKSSR to train for the 25m pistol event, has returned to her original home in Goria, Haryana, after training for around a week.
The problem for NRAI, though, remains with the consent of outstation shooters, if they will be willing to travel to Delhi for the camp. Plus, the COVID-positive case at DKSSR now raises a further question of whether housing the shooters at the Manav Rachna University hostel as earlier decided and the shooters travelling in and out of the range would be safe for everybody involved.