By Navneet Singh
New Delhi, March 28 (IANS) Travel restrictions and a spike in coronavirus cases across Europe has temporarily halted exposure-cum-competition plan for the core group of Indian athletes, says Adille Sumariwalla, president of the Indian Athletics Federation.
“It’s a worrying factor. We had plans to send Olympic hopefuls to Europe soon after the National Federation Cup athletics meet (that got over on March 19 in Patiala). But a new wave of the deadly virus has put those plans on hold,” Sumariwalla told IANS.
According to the AFI president, Poland, Czech Republic and Turkey were the three destinations shortlisted for training.
“We are observing things in the coming days. The original plan was to send athletes to Europe for three months soon after the Federation Cup. Since some countries have visa restrictions and 14-day quarantine for foreign nationals, it has become a bit difficult now,” added Sumariwalla.
Avinash Sable, who qualified for the Olympics in men’s 3000 metres steeplechase, was supposed to train in Morocco and compete in Europe to prepare for the Tokyo Olympic Games starting July 23.
The AFI had also shortlisted members of the men’s and women’s 4×400 metres relay teams and javelin throwers including national champion Neeraj Chopra for European tour.
“As of now Sable will be training in Bengaluru while the throwers and sprinters are in Patiala,” said the AFI president.
Nine individual athletes, along with a mixed 4x400m relay team, have qualified for the Olympics. AFI is hopeful more athletes will make the cut.
“Javelin thrower Anu Rani has a good chance to qualify for the Olympics. Some athletes will achieve the qualifying standard while others would earn an Olympic berth via world ranking in their respective events,” explained Sumariwalla.
“If top athletes aren’t able to travel to Europe, the national inter-state athletics meet in June at Bengaluru will be one good chance to earn quota places for the Olympics,” said a national coach associated with the team.