P.T. Usha: If COVID-19 continues, the anxiety will be a burden

Former track and field star P.T. Usha feels AFI competitions should be open to all; otherwise, it would be unfair to other athletes in the mix.

P.T. Usha feels campers-only national meets would be unfair to other athletes.

With some of the country's top athletes resuming training in a small way, the next thing to look forward to will be when and how the country gets back to competition. But with the coronavirus situation showing no signs of abating, sportspeople could be in for a long, anxious wait.

“If this situation continues, more than the virus, the anxiety over what could happen if one is infected would be a huge mental burden for athletes when competitions resume,” said P.T. Usha in a chat with Sportstar.

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“If you are infected and in hospital, you don't even get to see your near and dear ones. You even worry whether you would come out alive...all that would be running in your mind especially as you travel for meets.”

The Athletics Federation of India has planned a September 12 start to the season with the Indian Grand Prix. And since AFI president Adille Sumariwalla has said that he would prefer if the national campers don't leave the Patiala SAI-NIS centre, there is a good chance that a majority of the national meets this season, and probably next year too, would be held there.

There is also a worry now that the early meets could be a national campers-only events, like the Indian GP which was scheduled to take off in Patiala on March 20 before a Government order halted sports action across the country prior to the national lockdown.

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Usha feels campers-only national meets would be unfair to other athletes.

“Whatever competition the AFI conducts, including the Indian GP, should be open to all, as was done all these years. If such a national campers-only meet is held during the Olympic qualification period, performances there should not be counted towards Olympic qualification,” said Usha who runs the Usha School of Athletics where where training has started.

“Aren't the others also preparing to qualify for the Olympics? And when competitions resume, the AFI should ensure that top athletes are brought safely to the meet venue.”

But if the current COVID-19 situation continues for the next couple of years, Usha feels that athletes would probably not go for competitions.

“If this situation continues for something like two years, I don't think athletes will be willing to compete risking their lives. Nobody will want to risk their lives. After all, athletes are human...they are worried about their lives as anybody.”