Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju on Tuesday said they "cannot rush into a decision" on resuming outdoor training for track and field stars and risk their health amid the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Athletics Federation of India president Adille Sumariwalla. Taking stock of the situation during a virtual meeting, Rijiju interacted with top track and field athletes, including javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra and sprinter Hima Das. The meeting was also attended by top officials of AFI, coaches and athletes from NIS Patiala and Sports Authority of India (SAI) centre, Bangalore.
"The minister said it will take some time to come to a decision (regarding resuming outdoor training). He said the health and safety of athletes is paramount and so the ministry will have to be careful in this difficult times and cannot rush into a decision," Sumariwalla told PTI. The meeting lasted more than two hours. On Monday, Rijiju had said training of elite athletes will resume after the lockdown to contain the pandemic is lifted, urging sportspersons and stakeholders to be patient. He also added that health of the athletes is his top priority. During the virtual interaction, the athletes once again requested the minister to allow them to resume training outdoors, but in batches.
"The athletes said if it is possible to have training outside in small batches in different times. The minister said the ministry will have discussions internally and see according to the situation to have some Standard Operating Procedures," Sumariwalla added. Athletes in NIS had earlier written to the sports minister to allow them outdoor training in small batches and in different times while following social distancing norms of the government. Indian Olympic Association (IOA) president Narinder Batra had also taken up the matter with the higher authorities in the government.
The national camps at SAI centres have been shut since mid-March to contain the virus, which has infected over 65,000 people and caused more than 2,000 deaths in India. Track and field athletes have been requesting the ministry to allow them to train within the campuses of the SAI centres they are based in but haven't got the nod so far. Sporting activities have come to a grinding halt due to the pandemic that originated in the Chinese city Wuhan in Hubei province.
Tokyo Olympics-bound women's 20km race walker Bhawana Jat said the minister inquired about how they have been managing in terms of diet, fitness and general well being. "I said we are doing well but we have been inside our rooms for more than a month. I asked him if it is feasible to take a round of walk inside the campus for a short time or something like that," Jat said. "He said he will take the inputs from all of us and look into them. He told all of us to bear with the situation in this difficult time," the athlete added.