Most athletes in India are looking at Olympic postponement as more time in hand for training but not race walker Bhawna Jat, who isn't quite sure about the Games going ahead even in 2021 after the mayhem unleashed by the COVID-19 pandemic this year.
Bhawna, who qualified for the Olympics in 20km race walk after pulling off a shock win at the National Championships in February, feels that the athletes are staring at an uncertain future due to the pandemic, which has caused over 100,000 deaths globally. "I was disappointed at Olympics being postponed because I was in a very good shape and I was hoping to do well. The Asian Championships (to be held in March in Japan) was an ideal platform to test myself at the international level. That also got postponed due to COVID-19," she told PTI.
"It's uncertain now when the competitions will restart, the season for this year is over in this situation. It is a relief that I have already qualified for the Olympics. I don't know what will happen next year. I will have to start from scratch. I don't know whether the Olympics will even be held next year," she added. The 24-year-old is currently based at the Sports Authority of India Centre in Bengaluru where there is no outdoor training due to the lockdown. She is the only woman race walker at the centre which also has eight other male athletes of the same event.
"We do weight training, core strength training or skipping or work with the medicine ball. I walk inside the hall for 15 or 20 minutes," she said. "Our coach (Alexander Artsybashev) has told us not to rest too much and be active all the time unless we are sleeping at night. So, I play carrom for one hour and then dance to Hindi songs with other athletes from other sports. That is how we keep moving," she added.
Hockey players are also currently staying at the SAI Centre Bengaluru. Bhawna had clocked a national record 1:29.54, well inside the Olympic qualification time of 1:31:00, to win the gold in the National Championships held in Ranchi in February. "Since the time I took up this sport, I have been dreaming of an Olympic medal. That is my ultimate aim. But as of now I am not thinking about Olympics, I am thinking about when this pandemic will end," she said.
She said the athletes follow strict social distancing rules at the SAI Centre. "Nobody can go outside and nobody is coming in the centre from outside. While standing in queue for food at the mess, we have to be two metre apart. To get own stuff like shampoo or toothpaste, we have to tell the hostel people who bring them for us. Earlier, at least four trainees coud sit at the mess table but now only two can sit there."
Bhawna comes from a poor farmer's family at Kabra village in Rajasthan's Rajsamand district, which is adjacent to Bhilwara, considered a model district in the country's fight against COVID-19 pandemic. Asked if she feels anxious about her parents' well being in Rajasthan, she said, "I will not exactly say that but of course I am concerned about them but I can't do anything. I cannot go there unless the lockdown is lifted. I talk to them on phone everyday. Our village is not affected but they will have to go out for farming. My parents will not tell me anything about small matters in the family. They will think that it will affect me."