From disappointment to relief, Indian athletes showed a range of emotions after finding out about the indefinite postponement of the 2022 Asian Games owing to a spike in COVID-19 cases in China.
In a year of Commonwealth Games and Asian Games, the athletes need to be more meticulous with their planning as they look to “peak” at the right time.
For some, the delayed Asian Games means more time to rest and prepare, for others the postponement has “messed up” their planning.
Veteran archer Tarundeep Rai, who was looking to retire after the Asian Games, is now left clueless.
“It’s a big, big blow to me. I am already 38 and I was planning to retire after the Asian Games this year. I’m clueless now, this is a really massive setback to my preparations,” the three-time Olympian told PTI.
“I feel I was reaching the peak in my career again after the disappointment of the Olympics last year. I recently won the World Cup mixed gold for the first time (with Ridhi Phor) at Antalya. Everything was planned and on track for me and now I’ve to take a fresh call.”
While the postponements comes as a shock for Tarundeep, it has also given hope to star women archer Deepaka Kumari who had failed to make the Asian Games squad.
“No doubt it’s good news for us (husband Atanu Das who also could not clear the trials) and we’ve got a new lifeline to come back strongly this time. Missing out from trials was a big setback in both of our careers. But now we can start it all over again and look to bounce back strongly.
“But at the same time, I feel sad for so many of our fellow athletes who have been training so hard to do well. It’s so unfortunate that they won’t be able to wait till the next announcement,” she said.
Since squash is not an Olympic sport, players wait for CWG and Asian Games every four years to perform at the big stage.
Dipika Pallikal, who recently won the World Doubles Championship alongside Joshna Chinappa six months after giving birth to twins, said her planning for CWG and Asian Games started four years ago but now she is forced to review her long term plans.
“It is quite sad, to be honest. It takes a lot to try and be mentally and physically ready for the Games. And when you have been planning for the last four years it makes it even harder.
“But it is what it is. We have the CWG to focus on which is our next goal. We have another year to go for Asian Games which means we will all train harder, get better at what we need to,” she told PTI.
Top paddler G Sathiyan had it all figured out for the two multi-sporting events but now needs to sit down with his coaches and rejig his plans.
“We had Commonwealth Games, we had Asian Games and then the World Championships was also in China, which also might get postponed now. So, the planning has to completely change.
“So you know, we will review fitness programmes, and tournaments, with my team, whatever we planned was till the Asian Games. The entire structure that we planned has to change. Like what happened in Tokyo Olympics we will have to restructure the programme and make it accordingly.
“In one sense, yes, it’s a big disappointment that we were looking at something big, things were coming back to normal. We wanted more and more events to have big events but hopefully, at least it will happen in 2023,” said the world number 34.
But for the Indian swimmers, peaking in back-to-back events was always going to be a struggle, now they have more time to prepare for the Asiad.
“It is good and bad. We have more time to prepare but bad because we know have to replan everything. Now we do the whole thing then wait a few more months,” Srihari Nataraj said.
“CWG and Asian Games were back to back so it was good. Next year we didn’t really have any big meets except for the world championships so it gives us time to prepare.”
National record holder long jumper M Sreeshankar also felt that the postponement of the Asian Games will lessen his workload.
“This will lessen the workload. It’s difficult to peak again and again in a short span of time. I can now focus on CWG and World Championships,” he said.
India’s weightlifting head coach Vijay Sharma was disappointed by the postponement.
India’s last medal in weightlifting at the continental event came at the 1998 games with Karnam Malleswari clinching a silver.
An Asian Games medal is the only major silverware missing in Tokyo Olympic medallist and former world champion Mirabai Chanu’s cabinet.
“It is disappointing. We have to change all the planning now, we were planning with Asian Games in mind. We were hoping for a good show at the Asian Games. India hasn’t won a medal in over 20 years.
“We were preparing for the Asian Games only. The lifters are doing good, the preparation was going good. For this year, our main focus was Asian Games, we wanted a medal,” said Sharma.
“We’ll plan after the CWG now change it, starting from the World Championships.”
Esport is also part of the Asian Games roster and gamer Tanya Palta could not hide her disappointment but understood that it was the best solution in given circumstances.
“It feels very bad that the game has been postponed because of the Covid outbreak. But nothing we can do as the situation is bad. Human lives are the most important thing and I have to keep patience and practice every day till the game happens,” she said.