CHENNAI: After spending hours (on Wednesday and Thursday) at the Delhi airport, first lot of junior and youth boxers, along with coaching staff, managed to leave for Dubai late on Thursday, a day before the ASBC Asian Youth & Junior Boxing Championships.
The team was supposed to travel from Delhi on Wednesday, but was forced to miss their flights after arriving late for an RT-PCR test, which the team was not aware of. The RT-PCR tests undertaken by the contingent in Rohtak also didn't have a bar code. Only those with test reports from certified labs that issue a QR code linked to the original report are allowed to travel to the UAE. Everything compounded because of the late visa. Now the team is travelling in batches due to limited seats available on flights.
Around 23 managed to leave on Thursday while the rest are expected to leave on Friday morning depending on the availability of tickets. Given the situation, if any boxer is scheduled to play on Friday and is still in India, the delay could hurt the his/her chances.
"We were supposed to come to the airport four hours in advance and undergo RT-PCR tests. The airlines/travel agents did not give that information to anyone. So we reached the airport like we used to during the past, just three hours before departure and we learned about this before getting boarding card," one of the members of the contingent told this daily.
According to Dubai travel requirements, 'Passengers must complete a Covid-19 PCR rapid test at the airport before the departure of their flight. The rapid PCR test can be conducted within 6 hours prior to departure. (Rapid antigen test will not be accepted).'
Another member of the team said that the booking agency is partly to blame. Because of travel restrictions to Dubai, even the visa was granted at the eleventh hour, like for the previous outing of seniors in May. Because of lack of information and subsequent red light from airline authorities, the Boxing Federation of India arranged a place for the youngsters to stay in Delhi.
The boxers finally have to bear the brunt. "They are tired but what can be done? This happens," a team official said. The delay is a mighty blow for the potential stars of tomorrow as some of them might not get much time to rest before they begin their campaign on Friday. The official draw was held at 8pm (9.30 pm IST) on Thursday. There is every possibility that some of the Indians could be in action on Friday.
Eighteen teams, including boxers from Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, are expected to be part of the continental event. A total of 51 boxers from India will be hoping to make a name for themselves in the next few days. Each one of them had earned a spot after doing well in the nationals last month. For the last three weeks or so, they had been training for this assignment.
After Lovlina Borgohain's inspirational Olympic medal, there is a buzz among the youngsters. The team, despite airport woes, enters the event with plenty of hope. There are some pugilists who had won medals at the junior level and are now representing the country at the youth level.
"The government is doing so much for the athletes these days. Cash rewards have become a norm. That has certainly added to their motivation levels."
In the men's youth section, there are names like Vishvanath Suresh (48kg), Bishwamitra Chongtham (51kg), who are former gold medallists in the event at the junior level.