Indian swimmers breathed a collective sigh of relief after the release of latest government norms allowed the opening of swimming pools from October 15 for training purposes.
Swimming pools across India were shut down from March 24 when the COVID-19 pandemic necessitated a nationwide lockdown. This had a major impact on the swimmers who were training in hopes of securing a spot at the Tokyo Olympics.
The government order issued recently had the following statement regarding the re-opening of swimming pools as part of the Unlock 5.0 guidelines issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs.
"Swimming pools being used for training of sportspersons will be permitted to open, for which the standard operating procedure (SOP) will be issued by Ministry of Youth Affairs & Sports (MoYA&S)"
As indicated by Sportstar, the Sports Authority of India (SAI) had omitted the sport from their official SOP released in May, but will have to update them after the new guidelines.
After receiving multiple requests from their swimmers, SAI had arranged a training camp in August for top Indian Olympic contenders in Dubai. Indian swimmers Sajan Prakash, Srihari Natarj and Kushagra Rawat Dubai trained at the Aqua Nation Swimming Academy under the guidance of coach AC Jayarajan. The camp was held in Dubai as India had not allowed the opening of swimming pools then.
Swimmers not yet guaranteed Olympic berth
One of the top Indian contenders, Virdhawal Khade, had opted out of going to UAE and stayed back to focus on his government job and will resume training now that pools are ready to open from October 15.
All of the aforementioned swimmers have achieved the B qualification mark timing for the Tokyo Olympics but it does not guarantee a berth. The swimmers can secure their slot with a lower timing from the A qualification mark. With the facilities set to open later this month, it will be a major boost to their Olympic qualification chances.