CHENNAI: The way things stand the senior swimming nationals in June seems to be in jeopardy. As the Covid-19 cases rise, swimming pools in some of the states are shut again, even for competitive training. Swimmers and coaches feel that if theatres are allowed to operate, malls with 50 per cent capacity, restaurants are open and even bars are running, why not pools for training. If you add elections/political rallies, it just gets a little heady.
The general refrain of athletes and coaches had been, “it is understandable if it were shut for only recreational activities”. But for a small bunch of athletes who invested eight to tens years in the sport, where one week break is bad enough the move would lead to both physical and mental issues.
Even the Swimming Federation of India (SFI) is in a quagmire and echoed the predicament of swimmers and coaches. The federation had to cancel nationals in Rajkot in the end of March due to Covid. Their next target was hosting the senior nationals in June. But restriction pools by some states will have an impact in future meets. There is even a possibility of postponing the nationals too.
“As things stand, senior nationals seems to be in jeopardy,” said SFI secretary Monal Chokshi. “Swimming pools were the last to open. In some states it’s not yet open. And in some states like Karnataka and Gujarat, pools are closed again. In Delhi, except for Shyama Prasad Aquatics Complex, nothing is open. In states like Bihar, Bengal, Jharkhand, pools did not open. So until and unless pools are open everywhere for swimmers to train, it will be difficult to host any event.”
The SFI is closely monitoring the situation and did acknowledge that Covid is indeed a serious problem, but if other establishments and institutions are allowed to function, so should the pools too. Interestingly, in the US and Europe, pools are functioning and were among the first to open. “There are no scientific evidence that suggest virus spreads in the pool,” said Chokshi. “We will take all precaution and then train. State government should verify facts before closing pools.” Chokshi also said that health of athletes is paramount. But at the same time training for professional athletes too is important.
“If the senior nationals are to be held as per plan in June, this seems difficult now,” said Chokshi. “We don’t know when the pools will open in different states. In order to conduct nationals we have to send circular by this month so that the states can conduct their meets to select swimmers. It is a long process and needs time. Also swimmers need time to prepare as well. You can’t open pool today and conduct nationals tomorrow.”