Rowing coach Baig shares Tokyo experience amid COVID

Chief national rowing coach Ismail Baig, who guided Arjun Lal Jat and Arvind Singh to Olympic qualification, says the Games will not have the usual aura with the strict protocols.

Rowers Arjun Lal Jat (left) and Arvind Singh (right) with chief national coach Ismail Baig.   -  SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

Life has not been easy for chief national rowing coach Dronacharya Ismail Baig. He has to battle adversities in guiding his trainees in the waters while staying in touch with his wife and younger daughter back home in Hyderabad battling the COVID-19 pandemic.

The 55-year-old’s indomitable spirit helped him brush aside the thorns and set a record of sorts by ensuring the rowers qualified for the Tokyo Olympics under his mentorship for the sixth time since the 2000 edition.

Arjun Lal Jat (Rajasthan) and Arvind Singh (Uttar Pradesh) qualified for the Games in double scull after finishing second in the final race of the Asia Oceania Continental qualifying regatta in Tokyo. “Both Arjun and Arvind have been with me since 2018 and they were in the reserves for the Asiad that year and won a silver in the Asian meet the next year,” said Baig in a chat with Sportstar.

READ| Indian rower Arjun Lal says Olympic buzz missing in Tokyo

“The qualifying event was held at the same venue where the Olympics competition is scheduled in the heart of Tokyo,” he said.

The rowing contingent followed the necessary protocols in Tokyo. “We had to travel straight from the hotel to the rowing course and back and nowhere else.

READ| Indian rowing team of Arjun Lal and Arvind Singh qualifies for Olympics

“Honestly, with the kind of strict protocols in place, we were worried more about being disqualified for any breach or rules or testing positive for reasons beyond our control than on the qualification itself. Such was the tension for all of us as daily eight times temperature were checked and we had to report via a mobile app about our location for verification,” he explained.

“I can tell you one thing. If the Olympics are held with the same protocols in place in the wake of the pandemic, the aura and the atmosphere usually associated with the Games will not be there for sure,” he revealed.

“But, obviously, preparations seem to be on for hosting the Games on schedule with a lot of measures to counter the pandemic,” he said.

“Even for dining, each of the rowing squad was allotted a time slot and as things stand, it may not be different for the Olympics,” he said. “We spent about five hours on arrival at the airport to complete all tests and formalities before being given the go-ahead,” he added.

The camp for the Olympics will start after a break at the Army Rowing Node in Pune. “I now feel that training in Pune since last September in a bio-bubble was worth with this qualification of Arjun and Arvind,” signed off a visibly relieved Baig.

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