Track and field athletes will return to outdoor training on Monday after two months of being confined to their rooms due to the coronavirus-forced lockdown but the early focus will be entirely on their fitness regimens to avoid injury. Athletics Federation of India President Adille Sumariwalla told PTI that all the athletes based at NIS-Patiala, SAI Centre in Bengaluru and Ooty will start "outdoor fitness" training from Monday.
On May 17, the government permitted the use of stadia and sports complexes without spectators and under strict guidelines which allowed the athletes to return to outdoor training. "Yes, the athletes in Patiala, Bengaluru and Ooty will start outdoor fitness training from Monday. It will be fitness (training) on track," Sumariwalla said. "They will not have specific training as they were in their rooms for eight weeks," he added. Asked when the athletes will start specific training, such as running on track or throwing inside the throwing area, he said, "Of course, they will do that when their specific fitness comes to a certain level."
Star javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra, who has qualified for the now postponed Tokyo Olympics, is elated that outdoor training will start from Monday. "I am feeling happy. At least something is starting even though it will be a slow beginning," he said from NIS-Patiala where he has been confined to his room since March 18. While the throwers and track runners, including start sprinter Hima Das, are based at NIS-Patiala, the race walkers have been at the Sports Authority of India Centre in Bengaluru. The long distance runners are based at high altitude centre in Ooty, Tamil Nadu.
Top sprinter Dutee Chand has already started outdoor training at the Kalinga Stadium in Bhubaneswar after the Odisha state government relaxed the lockdown guidelines. On May 19, the AFI had issued its own Standard Operating Procedures for outdoor training of the campers, which included bar on handshakes, hugging, spitting and visits to salons. The athletes have been told to train under strict social distancing guidelines. According to the SOP, the athletes are prohibited from training if they have flu-like symptoms such as sneezing, coughing, difficulty in breathing, fatigue, or if they have been in close contact with someone who showed such symptoms.
The campers were also told not to exercise/train/walk in groups and they should maintain a safe distance of at least 2 metres from others during training as well as other times.
They have been asked to carry their own water bottle, energy drinks as well as hand sanitisers and towels. The athletes have been told not to touch others' belongings and to sanitise all handled equipment prior to use and after, for example shots, javelins and discus, and to clean them with a disinfectant spray at the conclusion of training.
The AFI tentatively plans to begin the season from September 12 with three national championships being squeezed to less than 45 days. Chopra and Shivpal Singh (both men's javelin throw), K T Irfan (men's 20km race walk), Bhawana Jat (women's 20km race walk), Avinash Sable (men's 3000m steeplechase) and the mixed 4x400m relay team have qualified for the Tokyo Olympics which has been postponed to next year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.