The Swimming Federation of India (SFI) is planning an exposure camp for swimmers to South Africa in March subject to the COVID-19 situation in the country. A group of 20 swimmers — 10 seniors and as many juniors will train either at the High Performance centre in Pretoria or Stellenbosch and will also take part in the FINA qualifying meets scheduled to be held in Durban.
"The team will arrive sometime in March and the last event is around May 29 so the swimmers will train and race there," SFI Secretary General Monal Chokshi told PTI. Although South Africa currently has travel restrictions in place due to a surge in coronavirus cases, the federation is hopeful the situation will improve by March.
"The situation has suddenly deteriorated due to the new mutant strain prevalent in South Africa. They have gone into lockdown now but it is still January and the camp is in March," Chokshi said. The proposal has already been approved by the Sports Authority of India (SAI).
"Everything is uncertain because of the pandemic. SAI has approved the proposal and I am quite hopeful it will taper off by March, it's still early days," Chokshi said. Currently, 18 swimmers, including Olympic probables Srihari Nataraj and Kushagra Rawat, are in Bengaluru attending the ongoing national camp till February 21.
"If travel is allowed our team will go there and train with the South African national team and take part in the events over there," Chokshi said. "There are three competitions scheduled in Durban which are FINA qualifying meets. If our swimmers travel to South Africa they will get to compete in these events," he added. The swimmers are scheduled to head to Turkey for a two-week biomechanics camp next month but the visit is shrouded in uncertainty as the Eastern european country has also witnessed an increase in COVID-19 cases.
"The swimmers were supposed to travel to Turkey for a two-week biomechanics camp. But Turkey has also had a surge in cases though travel hasn't been banned," Chokshi said. However, since sports science expert Dr. Genadijus Sokolovas is coming to India, there is a possibility the federation may cancel the trip to Turkey and extend the national camp till the swimmers head to South Africa.
"We have a specialist coming from US, he will more or less be doing the same thing as the biomechanics camp. So we might ask SAI to extend the national camp and move straight to South Africa. But we haven't ruled out going to Turkey yet," Chokshi said. SFI's aim is to get the swimmers specially the Olympic probables to compete in as many competitions as possible.
"Very few foreign competitions are going ahead around the world and where they are allowing foreigners to participate. Our plan is to send these swimmers for exposure meets wherever possible," Chokshi said. Six Indian swimmers, including Virdhawal Khade, Sajan Prakash, Nataraj, Rawat, Aryan Makhija and Advait Page have achieved the 'B' qualification in their respective events and are hoping to make the 'A' standard for the Tokyo Olympics.