Training in Italy, Angad Vir Singh Bajwa escapes COVID storm in India

Angad flew into Europe a month before the shotgun World Cup, scheduled to start from May 7 in Lonato, and he has been training seamlessly.

Asian champion and world record holder, Angad Vir Singh Bajwa, with Ennio Falco, the former coach of the Indian team.   -  KAMESH SRINIVASAN

Champions have an uncanny sense of timing. When the Indian athletes are struggling to travel for training and competition abroad, Asian champion and world record holder Angad Vir Singh Bajwa was able to find his way to Italy, for a long training stint.

With the shotgun World Cup scheduled to be staged in Lonato from May 7, Angad flew into Europe, about a month in advance, before the airlines and countries brought down the shutters, particularly on Indian travellers.

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"I came before the situation got bad. Training here, all at my expense," said Angad from Italy, quite relieved that he could not only train, but also "get a lot of repair work done on my gun".

The government machinery often does not keep pace with the urgency of the athletes. Even though he has been covered by the Target Olympic  Podium Scheme (TOPS), there was no time for Angad to wait and get the sanction.

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"It is unfortunate that athletes who are going to the Olympics cannot get sanction, but others do. Olympics is very important and training here is the key, especially with the covid cases in India going crazy. Hoping to stay here and train till the situations gets better," said Angad.

About a fortnight ago, skeet shooter Gurjoat Singh Khangura also managed to reach Italy.

Coach Jitender Beniwal is with Angad and that has been a big help for him. Olympian Mairaj Ahmad Khan, the second Olympic quota winner in skeet, had to face a bereavement in the family as his father passed away.

"I will start training at the Delhi range next week. Covid scene is very bad. So, trying to keep safety as a priority’’, said Mairaj, hopeful of regaining his focus on shooting.

"I hope Mairaj can make it here, as he will benefit with training here prior to the Olympics which is more important than the World Cup," observed Angad.

With a long term visa helping him focus on training in Europe, Angad was optimistic of capitalising on the situation as he felt that "May and June will be really important" for Olympic preparation.

"The situation here is good, especially with clubs. Also, they have opened Italy from lockdown, into yellow zone. Athletes are allowed to travel irrespective of the lockdown or red zone," Angad said.

With MQS shooters not getting the clearance, Sheeraz Sheikh had to shelve his idea of competing in the World Cup in Lonato. It may be noted that India is not fielding any trap team or women skeet shooters in the World Cup, which has attracted about 400 athletes from 50-odd countries.

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