CHENNAI: Given the strict Covid-19 guidelines in Israel, Indian judokas have to board a charter flight to reach the country to take part in the Tel Aviv Grand Slam slated from February 18 to 20.
As per the existing plan, they will fly to Istanbul, Turkey, before boarding the charter flight from there for the competition. "The tickets will be booked once the visa process is over. The judokas have options to leave on any day from February 14 to 16. Covid protocols are strict in Israel which means our team has to board a charter flight from Istanbul," Man Mohan Jaiswal, secretary-general of the Judo Federation of India (JFI), told TNIE.
As per a statement issued by the Sports Authority of India (SAI), the Indian team consists of five players — three men and two women — and a coach. The men's judokas are Avtar Singh (100kg), Vijay Yadav (60kg) and Jasleen Singh Saini (66kg) while Shushila Devi (48kg) and Tulika Mann (78kg) are women players, who will take part in the event. They will be accompanied by chief coach Jiwan Sharma. These five judokas had represented India at the Budapest Grand Slam in October last year.
The tournament will provide Indians a chance to pocket vital ranking points in their bid to qualify for the Olympics. Saini, with 850 points (the most by an Indian), is currently in with a chance of earning a continental quota for the Games. Winning a medal here will give him direct entry to Tokyo.
Indian judokas will participate in at least five-six events to secure ranking points to make the Olympic cut. "As of now, both Saini and Shushila can qualify for the Games if they can accumulate enough ranking points and finish in the top 18 in the world in their respective weight categories at the end of cut-off date," informed coach Sharma. A total of 512 athletes from 73 countries will be in action in the Tel Aviv tournament.
After the event, the Indian judokas are due to compete in Grand Slams to be held in Uzbekistan and Georgia in March. Both the events are Olympic ranking tournaments.