National 100m breaststroke champion SP Likith on Saturday said India needs to take cue from other countries and re-open swimming pools for elite swimmers to resume training. Several countries including parts of Australia and UK are opening swimming pools, allowing athletes to return to training. However, swimming pools in India remain out of bounds as per the Ministry of Home Affairs' guidelines for the fourth phase of the COVID-19 lockdown due to end on Sunday.
"We have to get back into training and a lot of swimmers in the other countries have taken precautions and got back into training,"said Likith, who achieved the 'B' qualification mark for the Tokyo Olympics last year in the 100m breastsroke event. "We have to learn to live with what's happening," he added. Talking alongside national record-holding swimmer Srihari Nataraj and Arjuna award winning former swimmer Shikha Tandon at a webinar organised by 'The Sports School' , Likith said one can work around the risk involved by being cautious. "Yes, there will be risk but we can be careful," he said.
The Swimming Federation of India (SFI) has also requested the Sports Ministry to seek the Home Ministry's explicit consent for reopening of pools inside sports complexes so that elite swimmers can resume training. The federation had submitted a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) regarding the resumption of training and were looking at two centres which would be able to adhere to the strict guidelines. However, Likith said he wouldn't be comfortable travelling amid the COIVD-19 pandemic. "I wouldn't want to travel to other places, maybe, my own centre that I train in," he said. The SFI has asked permission for only those swimmers to resume training, who have achieved the 'B' qualification mark for next year's Tokyo Olympics. The list includes the likes of Virdhawal Khade, Srihari Nataraj, Kushagra Rawat and Advait Page.
Meanwhile, Tandon, who represented India at the 2004 Athens Olympics in both the 50m and the 100m freestyle events, said the coronavirus enforced break gives the swimmers the perfect opportunity to reset themselves and to be mentally strong. "My biggest advice would be treat like a little break. We never get to take a break. Make the most of the additional year you have. Yes you can't go into the pool but it's a golden opportunity to think about non-pool related training like your mental training, felxibility," she said. "Use this time to reset and recharge an re-evaluate your goals. It's the little things you do now that will help you when you get back to the pool. Mental training is a very big component to a good performance. Learn more about your sport," she added.