The perils and complexities of conducting national camps during pandemic were vivid while assembling the boxers in Patiala earlier this month. It has been over two weeks now, there is no sign of training as yet. Instead, an inquiry has been set up to check if there was a possible breach of protocol by three pugilists (who subsequently left the camp) and Sports Authority of India officials in NIS Patiala. A doctor who is part of the camp too tested positive. Three coaches had to undergo a fresh round of Covid-19 tests. And the wait for boxers and the coaching staff for the camp to start seems endless now.
Paradoxical it may sound, but amidst all these, the National Rifle Association of India (NRAI) sent out a press release a couple of days ago announcing a national camp on August 1. Attendance was made compulsory. What is baffling is that a well-organised sports federation had sent out a release without informing the shooters about the camp. And making it mandatory only added to the woes of the shooters and their coaches. Just to complicate matters, the federation is not recognised by the sports ministry due to a Delhi High Court order and SAI has not sent any circular making training mandatory as of now.
The shooters and coaches are perplexed with this decision too. First of all, they have not heard anything from the NRAI officially, nor were they consulted. They feel the NRAI decision to force 34 elite shooters to attend a camp at a time when travelling is risky has put them in a dilemma. Though they are taking solace in the fact that the NRAI has not intimated them officially, some are harbouring hopes of a postponement or at least making it not mandatory.
Like a coach pointed out, there are no competitions in the next couple of months, so there was no need to rush into calling shooters in such a short notice. The shooters have been asked to undergo Covid-19 tests which might be difficult because each state has its own testing protocol. Some don’t test without symptoms. Also, travelling for shooters with guns and ammunition is always tricky and will leave them more exposed in airports than ordinary travellers. Yes, training must start but not in a hurry as most shooters have access to some kind of private range and they have already started practising.
The SAI is more focussed on sorting out the boxing issue than hosting another camp. They have not sent any circular or got in touch with any of the shooters and at least as of now, there is no plan to even make it mandatory. Not just shooting, even other NSFs are eager to start camps, but no federation is rushing it.