CHENNAI: Even as India's elite swimmers are kicking their heels over the government's reluctance to open swimming pools, one has quietly been training for the last two weeks. Sajan Prakash, who decided to stay put in Phuket (his training base) rather than come back to Kerala, hit the water in the last week of May.
Predictably, it's been rough. "I felt like s**t the first few days, if I am going to be totally honest," he tells The New Indian Express. "It's almost like you are rediscovering yourself again in the water after more than two months of nearly no water-based training."
Even though Thailand has managed to significantly flatten the curve — there are only 82 active cases, compared to a high of 1,451 in the middle of April — the 26-year-old is still mindful of the rules in place to ensure that there isn't a second wave in the country.
"There are still rules that all of us have to follow," he says. "Masks at all times. Social distancing. If you are using one lane for training, you cannot use any other lane that day. You can only be in the water for up to an hour every day."
For an Olympian (he competed in 200m butterfly at the 2016 Olympics), it's natural to be in the water for as long as possible. But this is the "new normal", according to Sajan. "All of us have to do what it takes to beat the virus. We have to abide by the rules so that we can get back to normalcy some time in the future."
The Kerala native's routine over the last fortnight included kicking and trying to reacquaint himself with the water. "It's just a question of taking it day by day," he explains. "It's not like you are training on land again. Getting back into the water is totally different. I have just been focused on kicking off the wall and slowly increasing my intensity. You don't want to go full tilt just yet, because there are high chances of you getting injured."
Speaking of injuries, Sajan, who finished fifth in the 200m butterfly final at the 2018 Asian Games, is yet to completely recover from a herniated disc. "I got that diagnosed last December. I am not yet a 100 per cent, so I have to be extra careful."
Time, though, is now Sajan's friend. "Obviously, the long-term goal is to qualify for the Olympics with an A time. But nobody really knows when the calendar will resume. So I can take this time to get back to feeling at my best. The focus now is that."
That, and abiding by the rules.