Frustrated at not being able to resume training, Asian Games bronze medallist Virdhawal Khade on Sunday said he may consider retiring from the sport if swimming pools continue to remain shut due to restrictions.

Khade said the delay in resumption of training would put the Indian swimmers at a huge disadvantage ahead of Tokyo Olympic Games.

Several countries including Thailand, parts of Australia and UK have opened swimming pools, allowing athletes to return to training.

However, even as the Ministry of Home Affairs announced guidelines to ease restrictions, opening markets and shopping malls, swimming pools in India remain out of bound amidst rapidly-rising coronavirus cases.

“Almost three months since the swimmers in India entered the pool. If other competitive athletes can follow social distancing while training, competitive swimmers can do the same as well,” Khade added.

The MHA had allowed opening up of stadia without spectators and some Olympic-bound athletes have resumed training.

The Swimming Federation of India has been requesting the sports ministry to seek the home ministry’s explicit consent for reopening of pools inside sports complexes so that elite swimmers can resume training.

According to the SFI, opening swimming pools for elite athletes is not the same as “recreational swimming” that is still barred as per the MHA guidelines.

Last month, the SFI had sought permission from the sports ministry, IOA and the SAI to resume training for swimmers, who have achieved the ‘B’ qualification mark for next year’s Tokyo Olympics.

“Absolutely zero feedback. Regular follow up with MYAS is yielding no results. All appeals to permit elite and competitive training to resume are hitting a wall at MHA. Without MHA permission, no state government willing to permit,” SFI Secretary General, Monal Chokshi told PTI.

“Unfortunately the decision makers in the MHA seem to think malls and restaurants are safe while allowing top athletes to train in controlled environments is unsafe,” he added.

Six swimmers including, Khade, Sajan Prakash and Srihari Natraj have achieved the ‘B’ qualification in their respective events for the postponed-Olympics and are hoping to make the ‘A’ standard.

Noted coach Nihar Ameen also appealed to the sports minister to look into the matter.
“Silence from MYAS is deafening. Appeals to resume training of elite swimmers beg the ear of our honourable minister of sports,” Ameen tweeted.