By Navneet Singh
New Delhi, Feb 12 (IANS) A five-member Indian judo squad, which will compete in the Tel Aviv Grand Slam tournament in Israel starting February 18, will undergo an gruelling journey of 32 hours, including a massive 21-hour stoppage in Istanbul, to reach destination — just a few hours before the contests start.
The flight is scheduled to take off from Delhi on Monday and reach on Wednesday. Their hopping flight will stop in Lucknow, Dubai, and Istanbul, from where a charter flight will take them to Tel Aviv. This arduous journey will drain the athletes and could impact their performance.
In normal course, it takes seven hours to reach Tel Aviv from Delhi, via Dubai. But due to the Covid pandemic and flight restrictions in many countries, the judokas will have to take the detour, said an official.
“It’s a challenging time. But what is important for the players that they would get to compete and gain international exposure as all five athletes are in a race to win the continental Olympic quota place,” team coach Jiwan Sharma told IANS.
Sharma, however, declined to provide details of the changed route of flights.
“The original route was Delhi-Dubai-Tel Aviv. It would have taken around seven hours to reach Tel Aviv. But due to Covid-19, the situation has changed. The new route is Delhi-Lucknow-Dubai-Istanbul. In Istanbul, there is a stay of 21 hours before the squad takes a charter flight, arranged by the Israel sports department, to take the squad to their destination,” a source told IANS.
From this competition, players would collect crucial ranking points. But only one of the five players, whoever gets higher rankings points first after the Asian Championships in April, will have a better chance to win an Olympic quota.
The five judokas are: Jasleen Singh Saini (66kg) and Vijay Yadav (60kg), Avtar Singh (100kg), Sushila Devi (women’s 48kg), and Tulika Mann (women’s 78kg).
All five competed at a two-day national selection trials for Olympic qualifying competitions, including the Asian Oceania, at the Indira Gandhi Indoor Stadium here on Tuesday and Wednesday. Avtar, Sushila, and Tulika won their respective bouts while Saini and Yadav lost their matches.