SAI, NRAI, Peter Gorsa help India's Olympic-bound skeet shooters get vaccinated

Training in Italy for the upcoming Tokyo Games, Indian skeet shooters Mairaj Ahmad Khan and Angad Vir Singh Bajwa decided to undertake a journey of over 1,000 km across the European continent to get themselves vaccinated.

Ennio Falco, Angad Vir Singh Bajwa and Mairaj Ahmad Khan

Coach Ennio Falco with Angad Vir Singh Bajwa (left) and Mairaj Ahmad Khan in 2019.   -  The Hindu

The Sports Authority of India (SAI) and National Rifle Association of India (NRAI) did the groundwork before Croatia's top marksman Peter Gorsa helped in "coordinating" the COVID-19 vaccination of Olympic-bound skeet shooters Mairaj Ahmad Khan and Angad Vir Singh Bajwa in Zagreb.

Both the shooters drove all the way from their training base in Montecatini, Italy to Zagreb to get jabbed on Thursday.

Training in Italy for the upcoming Tokyo Games, both the Indian skeet shooters skipped the ISSF World Cup in Osijek, Croatia on the insistence of coach Ennio Falco, but decided to undertake a journey of over 1,000 km across the European continent to get themselves vaccinated.

"Italy had no policy to vaccinate foreigners (now that has changed) so despite best efforts they could not get jabbed in Italy. Therefore, the Croatia route was taken. Petar Gorsa helped again in the coordination," an NRAI official told PTI.

According to both SAI and NRAI, Mairaj got a single-shot Johnson and Johnson vaccine and Angad got his second dose of Covishield (Astra Zeneca) on Thursday.

They are due to return to their training base on July 3, and will remain in Italy till they fly out to Tokyo for the Olympic Games.

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After longtime coach Falco advised the skeet shooters against competing in the ISSF World Cup in Osijek, and to remain in Italy, the NRAI became aware that it was not going to be easy to get the two shooters vaccinated because of the Italian government's policy against vaccinating foreigners.

It all started with an anxious Mairaj, who had contracted COVID in April, writing to IOA Deputy Chef de Mission Prem Verma, also the contingent's Covid Liaison Office, seeking help to get vaccination in Italy.

Indian Olympic Association (IOA) President Narinder Batra then sought NRAI chief Raninder Singh's advice on the issue and he assured that the skeet shooters' vaccination needs have been taken care of.

On June 24, the NRAI confirmed that the skeet shooters can get their vaccination done in Zagreb, on July 1, arriving there after securing a negative RT-PCR test not more than 48 hours earlier.

The Ministry of Health in Croatia advised that the shooters stay back in that country for two days after receiving their vaccines in case of any side-effects of the vaccine.

The NRAI, on June 28, wrote to the shooters that air tickets are being sent for them to fly to Zagreb and back to Rome.

However, the shooters instead decided to drive to Croatia and back, carrying their guns with them.

Mairaj wrote to the coach that the distance from their training base in Italy to Zagreb is just six hours and it will be easier for them to drive than to take a flight amid the pandemic.

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"The vaccines were being given as per the skeet shooters' choice and after constant coordination with NRAI.

"The NRAI president got all this done keeping the IOA and SAI in loop as well as the shooters and coaches," the Indian shooting federation official added.

Among the pistol and rifle shooters, Saurabh Chaudhary, Rahi Sarnobat and Deepak Kumar will get their final dose on July 9.

The Tokyo Games are scheduled to be held from July 23 to August 8.

While Angad has had his first shot of Covishield on April 1, Mairaj had been waiting for his first jab.

Last month in Croatia, India's rifle and pistol shooters were administered the Covishield vaccine, manufactured jointly by AstraZeneca and Serum Institute of India.

Gorsa, one of Croatia's top rifle shooters and ranked number 3 in the world, also played a key role in arranging the Indian shooters' training-cum-competition tour of his country and was there all along after the visitors arrived in the capital.

Gorsa, who had tested positive for COVID-19 on his arrival in New Delhi for the ISSF World Cup in March, was looked after well by the NRAI during his stay in India with Raninder even inviting him to stay at his residence.

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