CHENNAI: Amid Covid-19 scare at the Tel Aviv Grand Slam in Israel, three Indian judokas including the country's best bet Jasleen Singh Saini (-66kg) will be seen in action on Day 1 on Thursday. Apart from Saini, Vijay Kumar Yadav (-60kg) and L Shushila Devi (-48kg) will also take on their respective opponents on the first day of the event, which has Olympic ranking points.
The Israel health ministry on Tuesday confirmed that among foreign delegations, who reached the country for the tournament, five tested 'borderline' positive for coronavirus. However, they claimed that most of them were part of the teams and not the athletes themselves.
According to the ministry, the results could indicate that the individuals recently recovered from the virus. Earlier, it also admitted that five workers at the event had returned positive for the virus, but they had not entered the venue nor had come in contact with the athletes.
The Indian team also comprises Olympian Avtar Singh (100kg) and Tulika Mann (78kg), apart from chief coach Jiwan Sharma. Given the strict Covid-19 guidelines, the Indian team had to board a charter flight from Istanbul, Turkey to reach Israel. "Indian judokas and the chief coach were tested on arrival and all of them have returned negative," Man Mohan Jaiswal, Judo Federation of India's secretary-general, told this daily. Chief coach Sharma also confirmed the development and said, "The participants are not allowed to go out of bio-bubble. They can only go to the tournament venue from designated hotels and back."
Saini, who is in Pool A, got a bye in the first round and will meet Perez Roman D from Spain on Thursday. Yadav is also placed in Pool A and will compete against local favourite Jazan Adam while Shushila, who is in Pool C, will be up against Portuguese Siderot Maria. Saini with 850 points (the most by an Indian) is currently in with a chance of earning a continental quota for the Olympics. Besides, Shushila also has a chance to make the Olympic cut.
The event will be the second international meet for these five Indian judokas since the outbreak of the pandemic last year. They had represented the country at the Budapest Grand Slam in October last year. More than 400 competitors from 60 countries will compete in the event, which concludes on February 20.