SFI requests ministry to allow opening pools for training

The SFI has asked permission for only those swimmers to resume training, who have achieved the ‘B’ qualification mark for next year’s Tokyo Olympics.

The SFI has asked permission for swimmers like Srihari Nataraj who have secured a B-qualification mark for the Tokyo Olympics.   -  Sudhakara Jain

The Swimming Federation of India has requested the Sports Ministry to seek the Home Ministry’s explicit consent for reopening of pools inside sports complexes so that elite swimmers can resume training.

In the Ministry of Home Affairs’ guidelines for the fourth phase of the COVID-19 lockdown, sports complexes and stadia have been allowed to open without spectators, clearing the path for at least the resumption of halted training camps.

But swimming pools and gyms continue to be out of bounds, prompting the SFI to write to Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju, the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) and the Sports Authority of India (SAI).

“Since the order has been given for reopening the stadia and sports complexes, we have written to Sports Minister, SAI, and IOA to request the Ministry of Home Affairs to let at least the elite swimmers to start training,” SFI Secretary General, Monal Chokshi told PTI.

“It’s been more than two months since the swimmers entered the water,” he added.

According to the SFI, opening swimming pools for elite athletes is not the same as “recreational swimming” that is still barred as per the MHA guidelines.

“There is a difference between recreational swimming pools and the pools for elite athletes. It is in line with the MHA guidelines if these swimmers train in the pools of the sports complexes that are going to open,” Chokshi said.

The SFI has asked permission for only those swimmers to resume training, who have achieved the ‘B’ qualification mark for next year’s Tokyo Olympics. The list includes the likes of Virdhawal Khade, Srihari Nataraj, Kushagra Rawat and Advait Page.

Last week, the SFI, along with its various stakeholders, drafted a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) regarding the resumption of training, which was similar to what the US federation has adopted.

“In the guidelines of the SOP we recommended a few measures like maintaining the chlorine level in the pools and also ensuring that there is only one swimmer per lane while training,” Chokshi said.

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However, since it is not possible to adhere to the guidelines in all the centres, the Shyama Prasad Mukherjee Swimming Pool Complex (SPMC), which hosted the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi and the Padukone-Dravid Centre for Sports Excellence in Bengaluru are the two sports complexes in the running.

“These guidelines can’t be monitored across all centres. Only centre heads will be able to recommend where its possible.

“SAI will decide which one it will be but tentatively we have discussed the SPMC pool at Delhi and the Centre of Sports Excellence at Bangalore,” Chokshi said.