Athletes who are yet to qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics are facing the threat of their hopes being dashed as the coronavirus pandemic throws all sporting events globally into disarray.
Almost every day, qualifying events are being cancelled or postponed and the athletes are racing against time to prove they meet the qualification standard.
India's premier middle-distance runner Jinson Johnson is indeed concerned about his qualification and expressed his helplessness in the times of global pandemic. "I am really worried about my qualification but we really cannot do anything in this hour. We need to wait and watch," Jinson told Sportstar from Bengaluru on Thursday.
Having suffered an injury to his Achilles heel tendon last year, the Asian Games gold medallist travelled to Colorado Springs and trained under Scott Simmons during his time there.
He later returned to India and began rehab at HN Reliance Foundation hospital in Mumbai. Jinson is currently training at the Sports Authority of India (SAI) complex in Bengaluru. "My training hasn't been affected much and despite the outbreak and growing concerns, I am still adhering to my routine. It's difficult as there is no clarity when the qualification will happen but at the same time, I cannot afford to relax," he said.
As many as 64 Indian athletes qualified for Tokyo 2020 Olympics before the coronavirus pandemic halted sporting events across the world. In athletics, Irfan Kolothum Thodi (men's 20km racewalk), Avinash Sable (men's 3,000m steeplechase), Neeraj Chopra (men's javelin throw), Bhawna Jat (women's 20km racewalk) and the team of Muhammed Anas, VK Vismaya, Jisna Mathew and Tom Nirmal Noah (4x400m mixed relay team) have secured qualification.
However, ace sprinters like Dutee Chand, Hima Das and Jinson, are yet to qualify with the deadline for track and field qualification ending on June 29. First up is the second Indian Grand Prix in Patiala in about a week's time followed by the Federation Cup. However, the events are set to be called off with the sports ministry issuing new guidelines that no tournaments can be held till April 15.
"Due to injury, my training got delayed and I am not rushing things. I am hopeful of participating in invitational tournaments and qualify from there. Middle-distance running is all about timing and I have done well abroad. Last year I participated in the Next Gen Athletics meet in the Netherlands and also in the IWF World Challenge in Berlin. I just hope the situation improves," he said.
Jinson further informed that he is eyeing to participate in meets in Europe that are scheduled to take place from May to June. But with the outbreak still to be contained, his hopes might crash.
"Like I said, it's nothing in my hands now. If not Europe then there is Inter-State meet and we don't know if the Federation Cup will take place now or will it be postponed. There is no clarity as of now," he said.
If all the meets are cancelled, the last option available for qualification through the rankings, which will determine who gets to compete in the Games. However, with no events happening, the chances of participating in additional meets to improve ranking are bleak.
"I know my ranking is not that great and I am hopeful I will get a chance to qualify.
The qualification cut-off for Tokyo is 3:35.00s and Jinson's personal best in 3:35.34s. "I know I am tad short of the mark but I am confident of qualifying for the games. Athletics is all about fitness and in middle-distance I know how to pace my race. I am training hard and SAI is taking care of us really well with excellent facilities. I am confident of qualifying and just hope this pandemic ends soon and life returns to normalcy and the Games happen," he said.
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