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How does the second wave of COVID affect India's Olympic qualification chances?

Indian sportspersons remain away from a few Olympic qualification tournaments as flights are restricted from the country amid COVID wave.

How does the second wave of COVID affect Indias Olympic qualification chances?

How does the second wave of COVID affect India's Olympic qualification chances?


The Bridge Desk

Published: 29 April 2021 7:37 AM GMT

More than a year after the coronavirus began circulating around the world, India is facing a devastating second wave of infections and deaths. Hospitals in cities such as New Delhi and Mumbai are filled to capacity and facing oxygen shortages, with crowds of sick people forming lines outside. India's daily Covid figures hit a new high today with 3,79,257 fresh infections and 3,645 deaths reported in 24 hours. The caseload surged to 1.83 crore cases; over 2.04 lakh people have died so far. The spike has overwhelmed hospitals. Amid the new outbreak, many foreign countries have imposed a travel ban from India, which eventually results in Indian atheletes missing out on chances for Olympic qualification.


One of the countries to join the bandwagon of restricting India's travel is Malaysia. The Malaysian government has imposed a temporary ban on flights to and from India on Wednesday, which has left India's badminton players in doubt. With the India Open postponed indefinitely, Indian shuttlers including Saina Nehwal, Kidambi Srikanth, H.S. Prannoy were looking forward to taking part in the remaining two tournaments to be in the Olympics race. With only two Olympic qualifying tournaments remaining—Malaysia Open (May 25-30) and Singapore Open (June 1-6)—the situation is dire for the Indian shuttlers hoping to make it to Tokyo. With the ban imposed by Malaysia on every Indian, their qualification chances virtually end. As of now only PV Sindhu, B Sai Praneeth, and doubles pair Chirag Shetty and Satwiksairaj Rankireddy are confirmed for Tokyo.

Former world No. 1 Saina is placed 22nd in the Race-to-Tokyo rankings. Whereas, Srikanth, who is placed at No. 20 in the world, also has to punch above his weight to qualify for Tokyo.


Meanwhile, India's track and field athletes have also missed out on an Olympic qualifying event after the suspension of flights forced them to skip the World Athletics Relays in Chorzow, Poland, on May 1 and 2. The women's 4x100m relay team—Dutee Chand and Hima Das are members—and the men's 4x400m quartet were to take a KLM flight to Amsterdam early on Thursday but the Netherlands suspended flights from India Monday onwards.

The Athletics Federation of India (AFI) could not arrange flights through other routes as many European countries have banned flights from India. The top eight teams at the World Athletics Relays will qualify for Tokyo.

Travel restrictions also forced the Asian Boxing Confederation to shift the continental championships from New Delhi to Dubai on Wednesday. Originally scheduled from May 21 to 31, it will now end on June 1.

"It's unfortunate we've to shift the venue," Boxing Federation of India president Ajay Singh said. "We were very keen to host the championships but were left with no options."

The AFI was hopeful of the women's 4x100m relay team qualifying from the Poland event. The World Relays would have been the first major international event for Indian sprinters since the Asian Athletics Championships in Doha in April 2019.

The Indian women's 4x100m team includes Hima Das, Dutee Chand, Dhanalaxmi Sekhar, Archana Suseentran, Daneshwari TA and Himashree Roy while men's 4x400m squad is comprised of Muhammed Anas Yahiya, Arokia Rajeev, Amoj Jacob, Nirmal Noah Tom and Sarthak Bhambri.


India's Wrestling World Qualifiers participation is also in jeopardy after a 10-member Indian contingent, which included women wrestlers Seema (50kg), Nisha (68kg), and Pooja (76kg) and men's freestyle wrestlers Amit Dhankar (74kg), Satyawart Kadian (97kg) and Sumit Malik (125kg) was stopped from boarding the flight en route to Sofia, Bulgaria for the event. The event scheduled from May 6-9 is the final Olympic qualification wrestling tournament. The Indian team was supposed to fly to Bulgaria via Amsterdam from KLM Airlines. However, after the Netherlands government imposed a travel ban on Indian nationals flying in the wake of the worsening Covid-19 condition, the airline's authority denied permission to the wrestlers. This was the last tournament on the calendar to book a spot for the Tokyo Olympics.

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