India’s swimming fraternity got a shot in the arm after Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), in its latest order on Wednesday, announced the reopening of pools across the country from October 15.

Swimming pools across the country were closed since March 24 because of the COVID-19 induced lockdown that forced Olympic hopefuls to train in the United Arab Emirates.

“Swimming pools being used for training of sportspersons will be permitted to open, for which the standard operating procedure (SOP) will be issued by Ministry of Youth Affairs & Sports (MoYA&S),” the MHA said in its recent order.

Virdhawal Khade, a fish out of water  

Swimming had been hit hard by the pandemic as pools and complexes across the country remained shut ever since the lockdown was announced on March 24.

In its SOP released in May, the Sports Authority of India (SAI) too has left out swimming after MHA had barred pools from reopening till Wednesday’s guidelines.

After repeated complaints from the swimmers, the SAI in August had arranged for a training camp in Dubai where Virdhawal Khade, Srihari Nataraj, Sajan Prakash and Kushagra Rawat were supposed to take part.

However, Khade who had opted out of the camp had expressed his inability to resume training till pools in India reopened. In fact, he had said that currently, he is concentrating on his government job.

The swimmers were supposed to train at Dubai’s Aqua Nation Swimming Academy. They were expected to be accompanied by coach A C Jayarajan for a two-month stint at a cost of around Rs 35 lakh ahead of the Tokyo Olympics.