Opening of stadiums and sports complexes for athletes was among the latest guidelines issued by the government on Sunday and ace wrestler Vinesh Phogat believes it had to be done sooner than later as sportspersons would otherwise start getting frustrated at home.
However, there is still uncertainty over a number of topics – it is yet to be made clear as to whether the complexes are open for competitions or training and the fate of contact sports like wrestling is yet to be ascertained. Vinesh feels that regardless of all, there hopefully is a decision soon enough for resumption of training at some level.
“At the moment it really is not possible to know till what time this pandemic is going to go on and we can’t stop our lives for it,” Vinesh told IANS on Monday. “Yes, we have to be careful but something has to be done, till when can athletes just sit in one place. The situation is now getting a little desperate because there is no training. We can think about competitions later but there is even no training and that is very frustrating.”
Vinesh has been training at home with her sister for a sparring partner. “But without a mat it is not the same. At the same time, I can’t really do anything else. I can go to the place where I usually go to train, no one comes there but that is a risk, so I am avoiding that. Plus, there are no competitions and so I am not pushing myself too much either. I am just using the time to keep myself fit,” said the 2018 Asian Games gold medallist.
Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju had said that the resumption of training will begin in phases with those who have qualified for the postponed Tokyo Olympics and those who are close to qualification being given preference. Vinesh is one of the most prominent athletes in her category, having qualified for the Games at the 2019 Wrestling World Championships and is seen as a medal contender.
Vinesh was in the home run of her preparations for Tokyo 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic took the world by storm and the Games itself got postponed by a year. Like most people, the 25-year-old initially thought that the lockdown, which was first imposed in March, will be over in just over a fortnight.
“No one knows how long this is going to take so we can’t continue to sit at home and train. What if it all comes to an end by the end of the year and it becomes absolutely sure that the Olympics will take place in July next year. You can’t prepare for an Olympics in such a short time period, so I hope some sort of a training plan comes up. For now, my coach keeps sending me training plans for the entire week and I follow it,” she said.
The risk of the virus, however, has hardly gone away from the country — over 96,000 cases of infections have been reported and more than 3000 have died. “The complexes may be opened but obviously, entry should be restricted,” said Vinesh.
“It’s not like the virus has disappeared so now anybody and everybody can enter the stadium. Yes, spectators can’t come but even among athletes, only those who truly need to train for big competitions, should be given priority. Plus, those that come with us, the coaches and others, all of them need to be taken into consideration. A lot of planning needs to be done.”
Vinesh said that the training routines at home is as much a help for her mental health as it is for her body.
“The thing about athletes who are at this level is that, if we are kept away from training for a prolonged period then that mindset and mentality that is needed to perform goes away,” said Vinesh.
“I am not used to staying at one place like this at all. That’s why I am continuing to train as much as possible or else I’ll be punching the wall in frustration. That is one of the main reasons why I am training at home, to keep myself calm and focussed.”