Visa and vaccination tension for Olympic-bound shooters

Tokyo-bound skeet shooters Mairaj Ahmad Khan and Angad Vir Singh Bajwa are facing uncertainty regarding their vaccination and visa extension in Italy.

Angad Vir Singh Bajwa and Mairaj Ahmad Khan training in Capua, Italy, for the Tokyo Olympics.   -  SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

Despite all the professional arrangements by the National Rifle Association of India (NRAI) and the Sports Authority of India (SAI), the two Tokyo-bound skeet shooters Mairaj Ahmad Khan and Angad Vir Singh Bajwa are facing uncertainty regarding their vaccination and visa extension in Italy.

With vaccination being top priority, both the shooters are concerned about having their jabs done in time so as to facilitate smooth entry into Tokyo for the Olympics.

While Angad has had his first shot of Covishield on April 1, Olympian Mairaj is still waiting anxiously for the first jab. Considering the short duration before the Games, Mairaj has requested the Indian Embassy in Rome for Pfizer vaccine, so that he can have the second dose in 21 days.

Quite peeved by the consistent tame communication from the Embassy about requesting the local health authorities for the vaccine, without any positive response, the Indian camp has shot off a strong communication to the Ambassador Dr. Nina Malhotra.

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“We are mentally, emotionally and physically disturbed and tortured, after almost a month chasing the Indian Embassy for our vaccination and extension of our visas," wrote the Indian camp, seeking a quick resolution.

Mairaj could not be administered the vaccination earlier, as he was COVID-19 positive on April 27, and came negative on May 13, before flying into Europe.

With the visa ending on July 7, there is panic about extending it by a week so that the two can continue their training peacefully and fly to Tokyo from Italy. There's an alternate arrangement of the two shotgun marksmen going to Zagreb, Croatia, to join the rifle and pistol shooters, but that would considerably upset their training.

In fact, on the advice of the coach, Olympic gold medallist Ennio Falco, both the skeet shooters had opted to skip the World Cup starting in Osijek, Croatia, from June 24, so as to concentrate totally on best possible preparation for the Olympics.

- NRAI had approached the SAI last week -

"The Embassy of India in Rome, has taken up the issue up with the concerned Italian authorities and are working towards organising vaccine doses for both," a SAI statement said.

"The Italian government's health department has requested for details of athletes with regards to their past Covid history, which have been furnished."

Both the Olympic-bound athletes could also be forced to travel to Croatia for the World Cup to get vaccinated.

"The Indian government has also made backup arrangements for their vaccination in Croatia in the event of vaccination not taking place in Italy, so that both athletes get two doses before their travel to Tokyo," the statement added.

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