Rising Covid-19 cases and boxing team doctor’s positive report lead to cycling, hockey camp’s indefinite postponement | More sports News – Times of India


NEW DELHI: A sense of fear and anxiety has gripped athletes and sports administrators after certain recent developments at the NIS Patiala raised fresh questions about the Sports Authority of India’s (SAI) preparedness to resume sports activities and national camps in different disciplines across its various regional centres in the country.
An embarrassing quarantine protocol breach by India’s two Olympic-bound boxers, Vikas Krishan and Satish Kumar, and Vikas’ training partner, Neeraj Goyat, at the NIS Patiala, which resulted in the management change at the top leading to the interim suspension of NIS’ executive director, Col. Raj Singh Bishnoi, followed by a team doctor associated with the boxing discipline testing positive for covid-19 infection – all these incidents have made athletes worried about their well-being and safety when reporting for the camps after over three months of lockdown.
Similarly, the SAI, which has taken up the mantle of organising camps for returning athletes in the wake of the derecognition of 57 national sports federations (NSFs) by the Delhi High Court, too, has been walking a delicate tightrope in its bid to keep athletes mentally healthy and motivated during these uncertain pandemic times.
While the SAI has been gradually opening up its facilities for camps according to its own ‘Standard Operating Procedures’ (SOPs) and guidelines issued by the ministry of home affairs (MHA) and the health and family welfare department (MoHFW), the rising number of covid-19 cases nationwide, fresh lockdowns imposed by various state governments to control the virus surge and recent incidents playing out at the NIS Patiala involving boxers, including doctor Amol Patil testing positive, has thrown a spanner in the SAI’s plans to resume camps in coming weeks at its regional facilities.
To begin with, a national camp for the country’s premier cyclists, including India internationals Esow Alben, Ronaldo Singh and David Beckham among others, will not be organised now at the NIS campus amid growing fears of contracting the virus. The camp has been called off keeping the health and safety of cyclists in mind. The development has come in the backdrop of the boxing team’s doctor returning covid-19 positive.
The camp, which was originally scheduled to begin in Imphal, was twice postponed (July 1 and July 10) due to the Cycling Federation of India’s (CFI) derecognition like all other 56 NSFs and the SAI’s reluctance to fund the camp. CFI looked to organise the camp at the Khuman Lampak stadium, which has a velodrome in its campus and a hostel as well, but the residential facility wasn’t made available for the cyclists’ stay by the local state administration. CFI was in the process of renting out a space for cyclists outside the campus, but then the derecognition happened. Imphal was originally chosen for the camp because the Manipuri capital fell under the ‘green zone’ demarcation (not affected by covid-19).
The camp was later rescheduled for the Wednesday (July 15) start at the NIS, which the SAI agreed to fund as well, but the cyclists stayed put in their respective cities because there wasn’t any clear communication to report for the camp either from the SAI or the CFI.
But, after the covid-19 case on the campus, the SAI looked in no mood to take the risk of giving a go-ahead to any fresh camp, that too, when it’s not for the Tokyo Olympic-bound athletes. The SAI, it’s been learnt, has decided to postpone the conduct of the cycling camp for now. The sports body, which is looking for a course correction at the NIS – be it revisiting its quarantine protocols or overhauling the institute’ administration — doesn’t wish to put the athletes’ lives at risk.
Similarly, the CFI, too, fears for the well-being of its cyclists and doesn’t want a camp in Patiala. It doesn’t see any logic in making its elite cyclists to travel from different cities all the way to the NIS and then put them under a 14-day quarantine period. Instead, the CFI wishes to start the camp at a much more logistically convenient Indira Gandhi Indoor (IGI) stadium’s cycling velodrome from August 15. CFI’s decision to say NO to the NIS was influenced by the covid-19 positive case on the campus.
According to CFI’s chairman, Onkar Singh, while his core group riders in Imphal and Andaman have started training on a dedicated cycling track, the other core group members in Punjab and West Bengal are practicing on road tracks in the morning hours. The CFI will tell the cyclists to assemble in Delhi for the camp, stay quarantined for 14 days at the stadium’s residential facility and then start training at the refurbished velodrome.
The CFI’s original plan was to send its cyclists to Germany in May for training-cum-competition tour before returning back to India in August after competing in the UCI Junior Track Cycling World Championships in Cairo, Egypt from August 16-21. But then the world was struck by the deadly covid-19 and the subsequent lockdown ensued. It meant that the cyclists stayed put in their respective home cities and couldn’t practice.
Also, the IGI velodrome was undergoing refurbishment before the lockdown and the work was expected to complete by August. But, with no labour available and construction activity halted, it would take some more months for the velodrome to become fully operational, which would mean another postponement in dates for the camp.
“We are in a fix and don’t want to take chances going to Patiala when there has been a covid-19 case. It’s already too late to conduct the camp in Patiala. There’s no point calling the cyclists to the NIS and putting them under quarantine for the next 14 days and then taking them back to Delhi for the camp in August. It doesn’t make any sense. It would be better to organise the camp at the IGI and we hope that the velodrome becomes operational by then. If not, then at least the cyclists should be allowed to assemble at the IGI so that they can start some sort of practising. SAI should make the IGI’s residential facility for campers available to the cyclists. In the next 15-20 days, cyclists will need to come to Delhi. We also hope that the NSFs’ derecognition issue gets sorted out soon, so that the CFI can conduct the camp. My only concern is the safety and well-being of my athletes, that’s it,” Singh told TOI.
Similarly, talking about the hockey camp for the Indian men’s and women’s teams, the SAI has informed that the camp will not resume on July 19 as planned at its regional centre in Bengaluru because of the rising number of covid-19 cases and the city going for another seven-day complete lockdown until July 22. Another reason, it’s been learnt, is the derecognition of Hockey India (HI) as an NSF by the court. The covid-19 case at the NIS, too, has played a part in the decision-making. The players had been sent home on a month-long break by the coaching staff as they remained confined to their hostel rooms at the Bengaluru centre for nearly three months due to the countrywide lockdown.
The SAI may not be comfortable holding fresh camps at a time when the cases are rising and athletes themselves are afraid of resuming the training. It’s been learnt that the players haven’t been informed about the resumption of camps either by the SAI or HI. Since the HI is derecognised, the SAI has been directly contacting the athletes and organising camps. The men’s team chief coach, Graham Reid and scientific advisors Robin Arkell (men’s) and Wayne Lombard (women’s) are currently staying at the SAI centre.
At the NIS, the Olympic-bound boxers and core probables, along with the coaching support staff, haven’t been retested for covid-19 after doctor Patil’s positive test report on Monday evening. It had been decided by the SAI to get the 11 boxers and Indian men’s team chief coach, CA Kuttappa and women’s team head coach, Mohammed Ali Qamar, among other support staff members, retested to rule out the possibility of any of them being infected by the virus.
The men’s team boxers, including world No. 1 pugilist in the 52kg category, Amit Panghal and Ashish Kumar, among others, along with the coaching staff, were at the same quarantine facility where Patil was staying. The team members were quarantining at the STC boys’ hostel at the polo ground outside the campus. But, two days have passed, the boxers and coaches are still waiting for their samples to be collected.

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