COVID-19 has affected every athlete across sports

These are tough times for the sportspersons — irrespective of gender — and the associations are taking every step to help them during the crisis.

Budding athletes going through fitness drills at the Police Parade Grounds in Guntur. “I cannot say that it has affected women specifically, it has affected both genders. Everything is okay, we have not faced any critical situation specific to girls,” says Latha, the secretary of the Tamil Nadu Athletics Association.   -  T. Vijaya Kumar

She is one of the few women secretaries in state athletics associations in the country and C. Latha feels that whatever issues the COVID-19 pandemic or the resultant lockdown threw up were common to both men and women.

“I cannot say that it has affected women specifically, it has affected both genders. Everything is okay, we have not faced any critical situation specific to girls,” said Latha, the secretary of the Tamil Nadu Athletics Association.

Neeru Malik, the Chandigarh Athletics Association secretary, also spoke on the same lines but said the coronavirus lockdown has made athletes more creative.

“This lockdown has made athletes more creative, more innovative. They came up with many self strategies, they have explored themselves,” explained Neeru.

“There were issues, there were challenges but they were common in nature for both men and women and whatever the strategies adopted, they were also common. There were psychological issues but online sessions were conducted to handle them.”

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She said that athletes staying in hostels had returned home and they could have faced challenges there.

“They may have faced challenges because they could be from rural areas, probably because houses were small but athletes are smart nowadays.”

Hockey India’s plans

“While the teams are staying at the SAI campus with a good support system around them, Hockey India supervises their well-being with regular calls with team management. This applies to both men and women’s team. We encourage the players to open up to the support staff in case of any emotional stress or seek help from within the team’s leadership group. We also encourage the support staff to keep the players informed about the current situation and any developments that concerns them. Managing players expectation is another important aspect and players can pick up the phone and reach out to anyone of us in the federation in case of any help they require. Additionally, the High Performance Director, David John, speaks with both the Chief Coaches Graham Reid and Sjoerd Marijne with regards to senior core probables and support staff on a regular basis to understand in case they require any other support. We don’t treat our teams differently. Both teams need equal attention and care during these difficult times,” said Hockey India.

David John, High performance Director, Hockey India, regularly speaks with both the Chief Coaches Graham Reid and Sjoerd Marijne with regards to senior core probables and support staff to understand in case they require any other support.   -  K. Pichumani

 

Online coaching and monitoring

In combat sports like boxing and wrestling, men and women athletes have been enjoying equal status and similar facilities. These factors helped these two sports immensely during the lockdown as the women athletes did not have to struggle to maintain their fitness and keep in touch with their training.

Boxing, which earned nine Olympic quota places in the Asia/Oceania qualifier in Jordan earlier this year, was the first sport to have recognised the challenge posed by the COVID-19 outbreak and quickly redrew its plan to organise online coaching and monitoring of the athletes.

The women, who have earned four quota places out of a maximum five, looked more active as they posted their training videos regularly on social media.

“Our women boxers are as strong as the male boxers. These are times when we are all trying to understand new ways of living amidst the Corona pandemic and the women boxers are no different,” said Boxing Federation of India (BFI) president Ajay Singh.

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“One of the instructions given to the coaches was to keep talking to all the boxers, including the women, and monitor their mental well-being. We organised special sessions as well as one-on-one consultations for the boxers, including the women pugilists, with mental trainers.”

Singh said in the age of digital revolution “reaching out has never been an issue.”

Citing examples of the iconic Mary Kom and promising boxers like Lovlina Borgohain, Manju Rani and Jamuna Boro, Singh said, “Our women boxing stars have led the way in not just bringing laurels for the country but also in inspiring young girls to dream and pursue a career in boxing. We are proud to have some strong-willed and tough women who are ready to take any challenge and have deservedly earned themselves iconic status.”

Indian wrestling, which has stars like Olympic bronze medallist Sakshi Malik and Asian Games champion Vinesh Phogat, too, never treated its women athletes differently.

“We don’t have any differentiation among men and women in wrestling. The guidelines are the same for everyone and like men the women have been training on their own,” said Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) secretary V. N. Prasood.

“We have to wait until the camp resumes and see when the United World Wrestling allows competitions to begin,” he added.

Weightlifting is another sport which has some top women athletes like former world champion Mirabai Chanu and Rakhi Halder, who have a chance to qualify for the Olympics. The Indian Weightlifting Federation (IWLF) has extended all help to these top athletes during the lockdown and is eagerly awaiting the resumption of the national camp.

BCCI will take care of women’s cricket

“There will obviously be some impact due to the worldwide pandemic and it will take some time to get back the momentum the women’s team had got during the T20 World Cup. But I am confident, things will ease out soon,” says Shanta Rangaswamy.   -  G. P. Sampath Kumar

 

Shantha Rangaswamy, former India captain and Apex Council Member, BCCI, said, “Sports in general is going to be affected due to the coronavirus, women’s sports more so. But I can assure you that women’s cricket in India will be less affected than other parts of the globe. That’s simply because no one will let it happen like that. The BCCI will ensure that it does everything possible to keep things going.

“I don’t think the board led by Sourav Ganguly will ever think on the lines of neglecting women’s cricket. Even for the proposed Australia tour, they have scheduled women’s fixtures, that explains it all.

“There is a sea of change as compared to what it was 15 years ago, simply because women’s cricket is now under the BCCI and also because of the fact that the current team (of administrators) have given importance to the women’s game.

“That said, there will obviously be some impact due to the worldwide pandemic and it will take some time to get back the momentum the women’s team had got during the T20 World Cup. But I am confident, things will ease out soon.