Indian athletes stay mentally strong during lockdown

India’s sports stars have been actively pursuing self-improvement, even beyond sports, during the lockdown.

By Utathya Nag

With India under lockdown since March due to the COVID-19 pandemic, full-fledged training for most Indian athletes has been on the backburner. But the pursuit for self-improvement has not been dampened, even in these testing times.

While some have taken up domestic activities like cooking and gardening to keep busy, a few like Vijay Kumar and Parupalli Kashyap have turned to books and online courses to hone alternate skill sets during the lockdown period.

Shooter Vijay Kumar takes up law

Holed up at a training college in Daroh, Palampur, the 2012 London Olympics silver medallist has been taking online law classes to better prepare himself for his role as a Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) with the Himachal Pradesh Police.

“I have stopped my physical training but am still taking online law classes. Physical training is not possible at the moment as we have to maintain social distancing,” he told the Press Trust of India.

Oil corporation tests keep shuttlers busy

Much like Vijay Kumar, Indian badminton stars Parupalli Kashyap, Chirag Shetty and N Sikki Reddy have been busy improving their knowledge and awareness to be better at the jobs they hold with the Indian Oil Corporation (IOC).

“Basically you read the course first then give an assessment test immediately,” Commonwealth Games gold medallist Chirag Shetty, also a Grade A officer with the Indian Oil Corporation, told the PTI

“You have to score at least 80 per cent, which is pretty tough. So, you end up attempting one course multiple times to pass.”

The topics to choose from revolve around security, waste management, product maintenance among others

With the lack of competitive action and constraints on training regimen, the educational exercise is also helping the athletes to keep themselves occupied and mentally active.

“It is good. We train two sessions now and in between have a lot of free time, so it keeps us occupied,” Chirag Shetty pointed out.

Olympian Parupalli Kashyap concurred with his junior, “The course material is really interesting. It gives us an idea about different important aspects of the company. It is a good initiative because as full-time athletes we don’t get time otherwise to do these courses.”

Gauri Sheoran aims for fashion

Pistol shooter Gauri Sheoran, meanwhile, is using the time to pursue her other passion – fashion styling.

“I am even applying for colleges for it and looking at some online courses,” the 2019 South Asian Games medallist told the Times of India.

Interestingly, for the 22-year-old, it was her time on the road as a professional shooter which eventually nurtured her interest in fashion.

“I used to be a total tomboy when I started shooting. I used to wear baggy t-shirts and lowers. But after getting exposure through international competitions and going out, I just fell in love with fashion somehow.

“Ever since then, I have been inclined towards doing my own hair and makeup. So, that is how it all started and I want to pursue it as a career,” the athlete from Haryana revealed.

Sidharth Rawat out to crack UPSC

For tennis player Sidharth Rawat, the lockdown has been a time to reevaluate his targets for the year and realign himself accordingly.

The 27-year-old was planning to appear for the UPSC – India’s Public Service examination – in May this year but with the break from tennis, has decided to use the time to prepare himself better and take the exams in 2021.

The UPSC is known to be a difficult exam to crack and Sidharth Rawat is hoping the extra preparation time will give him the momentum needed to excel.

"When you are playing tennis full time and travelling, it is difficult to get any momentum with your studies. Now I plan to complete it as much as possible before the lockdown is lifted. And when I start playing again, I will have the momentum with me to finish it,” he revealed in an interview.

A welcome initiative

Given the limited lifespan of a sports person's career and the various challenges and uncertainties accompanying the life of an athlete, having a backup plan and honing alternate life skills has become imperative.

“We need to look after athletes because the very nature of sport is that more will fail than succeed,” shooter Abhinav Bindra, India’s first individual Olympic gold medallist, had reiterated during an online session recently.

“It is important that athletes have backup plans in case their sports career doesn’t work out,” he reasoned.

Hence, Abhinav Bindra had called for the administrators of sport to create an “alternate skill development programme” to look after the athletes in the long-run.