The apex national sports body of the country is trying to help the athletes in keeping up with their preparations for the Tokyo Olympics 2021.

The nationwide lockdown that was implemented by the Indian Government in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak has put the Indian athletes in a spot of bother too. However, the Sports Authority of India(SAI) has already prepared for such a scenario and hence ensured that the requirements of the athletes are delivered to them at their doorstep. The Target Olympic Podium Scheme (TOPS) secretariat has aided them to carry out this assignment.

The Sports Ministry was tasked with finding out the training requirements of the TOPS athletes and also that of those players who are in the list of probables to represent India in the Olympic Games that will take place in Tokyo next year.   

Whilst speaking to TOI, the SAI said, “A total of 107 athletes (including para-athletes) were mapped for their requirements towards their training at home. The equipment requirements of all the athletes were collected and mapped according to SAI regional centres.”

Wrestlers Bajrang Punia, Sunil Kumar along with puglists Ashish Kumar and Simranjeet Kaur are amongst the athletes who have availed these benefits and deliverables from the authorities. The SAI continued, “Around 43 requests were received from the athletes, half of which have been fulfilled with the help of SAI regional centres, state governments and NGOs.”

Shooter Manu Bhaker’s name was also included in the list of athletes who have requested for certain equipment. Manu, along with a host of other shooters, had asked for air pellets, templates and paper targets. She remarked, “I had requested for target papers and pellets and received those on Sunday. SAI delivered those at the Dr Karni Singh Shooting Range in Delhi, and my father arranged for it to reach us.

She further observed, “It took 3-4 days, but I have it now. It (pandemic) is a situation that none of us saw coming. So I thank SAI for helping me out with this so that I can continue to train.”

It has been held that the extended lockdown initially caused logistical issues to the SAI, but they are managing to sort that out with the help of their regional centres and the respective state governments.

For instance, pistol shooter Abhishek Varma has desired for certain apparatus that could help him train whilst he is with his family in Chandigarh. He mentioned, “TOPS (officials) called to ask if I need anything related to exercise or shooting. I have given them my requirement of electronic target (machine) and SCATT (simulation shooting software).

“They said they will try to provide that as soon as the lockdown is lifted (as of now post May 3),” Varma concluded.

Similarly, Bajrang Punia was provided with kabaddi mats for the time being too. He stated, “Yes, I have been provided that from the SAI centre. It’s not a wrestling mat, but the one used in kabaddi. Still, it will help me.” It is a temporary arrangement made by the regional SAI centre (Sonepat).

Several athletes are stationed at various SAI centres currently too. For example, javelin-thrower Neeraj Chopra is at NIS Patiala, whereas the men’s and women’s hockey teams are at SAI Bengaluru.

TOI has reported that they have learnt that the Sports Ministry has asked for approval from the Ministry of Home Affairs so that the athletes present at the SAI centres as of now could start over their trainings yet again after the lockdown ends on May 3rd, 2020.

SAI deserve to be lauded for the efforts that they have made to help the sportspeople in the past month or so. They asserted, “This is an ongoing process as it depends on the local (state government) restrictions. As and when the situation improves, attempts will be made for fulfilling the same.”

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