CHENNAI: In a major setback for swimmers in the country, the Swimming Federation of India (SFI) announced on Monday that the delayed senior nationals for 2020-21 will not be conducted due to the pandemic.
It was scheduled to be held from March 24-27 in Rajkot. This means that swimmers will not compete in a national competition in the 2020-21 season.
According to SFI, the reason to cancel the event was due to the new travel restrictions imposed by several states in the wake of a surge in the number of coronavirus cases in the country. Gujarat, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra have all imposed new guidelines which includes that a negative Covid-19 report is mandatory for people arriving from other states.
"We are a bit disappointed. We were looking forward to hosting the nationals," Monal Choksi, SFI's secretary-general told this newspaper. "Gujarat and the neighbouring states have fresh travel restrictions in place. Even though the event was to begin on March 24, we felt the situation might not be under control.
Most of the players come by train. So for them, it's a little unsafe." Most of the states in the northern part of the country are just about reopening the pools due to the onset of winter. With swimmers yet to get back into shape, 16 of the state associations were unable to conduct the selection trials prior to the nationals and expressed their inability to send the names to the federation. Pools in states such as Rajasthan, New Delhi, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Assam reopened only 10 days ago.
The SFI felt it wouldn't be ideal to conduct a national meet with only a handful of swimmers taking part in it.
"Swimmers who have been training would have loved this opportunity but the bulk of the state units are finding it difficult to host the trials because unfortunately, still, pools have just opened. Swimmers are out of training, so they are unable to send their teams. We would rather do it on another date than have a national event with very little participation," added the secretary.
The SFI, however, is hopeful of conducting this year's nationals — senior and junior — in June as scheduled. The federation feels by that time, athletes will have prior training and the pandemic situation gets better. The rationale behind having the national meets in June was to conduct it before the Olympic qualifying cycle ends.
"Hopefully, in the next couple of months, they will sort these problems. It doesn't look like we will have problems in having the meet in June," Choksi said.