Athletes of lesser sports suffer in silence

The Tribune

The Tribune

Author 2019-11-03 09:35:00

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Vinayak Padmadeo
Tribune News Service
new delhi, November 2

The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) copped a lot of flak for scheduling the first Twenty20 International match between India and Bangladesh in New Delhi immediately after Diwali, when the pollution levels are very high in the city.

Environmentalists and even former India opener and current Member of Parliament Gautam Gambhir requested BCCI to shift the match out of the city as the Air Quality Index (AQI) readings have ranged from ‘severe’ to ‘severe plus’ and even ‘hazardous’ in recent days.

While cricketers were pushed into the limelight, lesser-known athletes have gone about their business as usual — though most of them have shifted indoors to save their lungs.

Black phlegm

Long-distance runners including Meenu, who has represented India in the Asian Track & Field meet, and Ankur Dhama, who has won many medals in Para Games, had to stop training as smog began to take a toll on them. Their coach, Dr Satyapal, stopped training as many of his pupils — over 30 train under him at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium — started to cough out ‘blackish’ phlegm.

“It was starting to get to a situation where training outside wasn’t an option. Can you believe, their towel would get black when they would wipe the sweat after a run!” Satyapal told The Tribune. “All the distance runners, who normally run 15-20 kilometres daily, have been forced to train indoors. They have been reduced to some gym exercises only.”

Similar is the case of the cycling team, which has been forced to train at the velodrome at the Indira Gandhi Indoor Stadium. A national team member, not wishing to be quoted, said: “The road training programme, which is essential to build endurance among us cyclists, has been put off due to falling air quality after Diwali.”

“Right now our work rate has come down to 25 per cent as we have suspended all outdoor training. It is either gym exercises or some runs inside the velodrome, that’s it,” he said. “It is hard to walk in this scenario, so training outside in this foul air is out of question. It is a needless Diwali gift that no one wants or deserves.”

He said that if conditions don’t improve, the team may have to shift out of Delhi. “It is wait and watch for everyone here,” the cyclist said.

Wait and watch

Some others have no option but to brave the smog. The archers, who train at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, have to remove their masks to practise. Over 60 archers have registered under the Come & Play scheme, and of them 30-35 train regularly.

“Many come with their masks on but have to remove them as the mask may hinder their shooting. It is not ideal but they cannot shoot with their masks on,” said archery coach Ashim Kundu. “But they put it on when not shooting. But despite the bad air, attendance has not come down.”

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