Badminton post COVID-19: Players brace up for new training norms

The big question is how will the training be as and when it resumes in post-Covid-19 scenario and what are the expectations of the players with regard to safety measures.

National head coach P. Gopi Chand with Sameer Verma, B. Sai Praneeth and K. Srikanth at the Gopi Chand Academy in Hyderabad. “We have been used to training together in groups. It will be a challenge in the post-Covid world to get it to a scenario where you look at individual training, taken care by individual coaches, says Gopi.   -  V. V. Subrahmanyam

Reigning world champion P. V. Sindhu is locked indoors and training at her residence under the watchful eyes of her father, former volleyball international P. V. Ramana. Former world No. 1 in men’s singles Kidambi Srikanth is stuck in his hometown in Guntur for more than two months and had the liberty of going to an academy in Vijayawada to have a feel of badminton, with emphasis on fitness.

World championship bronze medallist B. Sai Praneeth is restless and is looking forward to resume training after such a long gap and so are some of the lead shuttlers including London Olympics bronze medallist Saina Nehwal, Olympian P. Kashyap, doubles specialist N. Sikki Reddy to name a few.

And, most importantly, chief national coach P. Gopi Chand is not sure when exactly the training will resume since Hyderabad, where his two premier academies are located, has an increase in number of Covid-19 positive cases.

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The big question is how will the training be as and when it resumes in post-Covid-19 scenario and what are the expectations of the players with regard to safety measures.

There are no encouraging signs on this front. Most of the Sports Authority of India sub-centres in Gachibowli are sanitised but the officials have been told to put things on hold, through a communication, not to think of any full-fledged training for two more months.

“These are challenging times, it is good that SAI and the government have laid the SOP (standard operating procedure) guidelines which we will strictly adhere to for sure,” said Gopi.

“We have been used to training together in groups. It will be a challenge in the post-Covid world to get it to a scenario where you look at individual training, taken care by individual coaches,” he said.

“There will be some amount of planning, some deviation from what was done earlier. I am sure we will be able to come through this,” the national coach said.

“We are three months into lockdown. However, our players have stayed fit. These are tough times. But I am sure the players will come back,” Gopi added.

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P. V. Ramana is not too concerned about the post-Covid-19 scenario. “As far as Sindhu is concerned, I can tell you it takes only a week’s time once she is back on court to get the feel of shuttle and be as good as she was before this break, for the simple reason she has maintained the fitness levels through a string of exercises,” he said.

“Even when she was training at the Gopi Academy and when the foreign coaches like Mulyo were monitoring the training sessions, I ensured that Sindhu followed a different set of physical conditioning exercises at home,” says her father P. V. Ramana.   -  V. V. Subrahmanyam

 

“Even when she was training at the Gopi Academy and when the foreign coaches like Mulyo were monitoring the training sessions, I ensured that Sindhu followed a different set of physical conditioning exercises at home,” he added.

“To be frank I did have a look at some of the physical conditioning experts before we chose Suchitra Academy as the final destination in 2017, where I was really impressed with the qualities and commitment of trainer Srikanth who stays very close and is much safer,” said Ramana. “And the difference in Sindhu’s fitness is there for all to see after she started going there,” he said.

“This is the advantage of being a parent with sports background. For, Sindhu also does hill training and 200m running with an eye on the specified timings given by her trainer Srikanth,” the proud father said.

So in the post Covid-19 scenario, since we do not know for sure about the health condition of any player or a coach or an official at the academy, the safety of every player has to be of top priority, he said.

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“If the national camps resume at the Gopi Academy, we are going to insist on separate two-hour training sessions for Sindhu, featuring only the chief national coach Gopi Chand, Park and myself. We don’t want anyone else,” Ramana said.

“It is not the question of seeking special privilege for Sindhu being a world champion. It should be the case for every other player too to be absolutely safe and after each session the entire area has to be sanitised,” he suggested.

“Yes, we will be forced to think of an alternative like training at Suchitra Academy, which is glad to provide exclusive facilities to Sindhu and the coaches including taking care of her diet programme. They feel it is a sense of pride and honour for them to have a world champion train,” Ramana said.

“Definitely, we are pleased with Suchitra Academy’s response and glad that we always have an option just in case things go wrong at the regular training centre,” he said.

Sai Praneeth felt it was imperative to start some sort of training and even Kashyap and former national champion B. Chetan Anand said the break in training cannot be for too long.

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“Yes, we are conscious of the need to train in a different kind of atmosphere with all sorts of guidelines. But some training is better than nothing,” is their unanimous opinion.

Interestingly, all players shall be only resuming training after taking a written consent of the parents on releasing their children for the training centres, according to a senior official of SAI. “In the case of NIS (National Institute of Sport) and the SAI Centre (South) in Bengaluru, it is far more easier as most the training wings are located on the guarded campus,” he said.

Many shuttlers admit that fitness may not be a big concern as some of them have been involved in online classes and some following the prescribed regimen of their personal trainers at home.

“For sure, things will be different as and when training resumes with the virus stigma constantly haunting everyone including the officials and the athletes,” is the general impression of all concerned.

Badminton Association of India (BAI) vice-president K. Ch. Punnaiah Choudhary said any resumption of training is subject to the approval of the respective State Governments as safety of everyone concerned is the top-most priority.

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“How much of an impact this long break will be on the players when they eventually return to the circuit as and when the situation improves depends on how well-tuned they are physically and mentally. Gamewise, I think it will take just a couple of weeks for them to get into the competitive mode,” he said.