With the lockdown restrictions slowly getting lifted, sports facilities have started unlocking its doors for athletes, especially with the Tokyo Olympics scheduled for next year. The Indian Government has suggested wrestlers to practice with dummies instead, but how effective will that actually be?
The Olympics is the biggest sporting spectacle in the world, with thousands of athletes sweating it out for four years to see themselves secure the ultimate goal - stand on the podium. Strenuous training regime, long hours of sacrifice all lead up to the 15-day event. With the Tokyo 2021 Olympics a year away, Indian athletes are stranded at home (mainly) thanks to the lockdown, which has hampered the preparations immensely, even though the contingent was well on course to give it a shot if the multi-sport event had happened in 2020. Some of the athletes have already resumed practice at home, with social distancing norms in place. But, what about wrestlers, boxers, and fencers? Because social distancing norms are not applicable to combat sports, isn’t it?
Well, the Government of India has relaxed restrictions recently, with many training facilities opened for athletes, but with certain Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) in place. While things are not back to normal, India have devised a way to keep the ball rolling. Interestingly, Wrestling - a sport which involves direct contact between two players on the mat, cannot regain normalcy with social distancing. For a stop-gap solution, the government has advised wrestlers to use dummies instead while they practice for the 2021 Olympics. As strange as it may sound, that’s the best option that could have been drawn. But, how could a wrestler gain from wrestling with a dummy? They are lifeless, to say the least.
We caught up with national coach Kuldeep Malik and he shared valuable insights on how effective dummies can be for wrestlers. He feels that dummies are only 25% effective.
“Dummies are effective to a certain extent, not fully. Wrestling, as you have seen, is based on the principle of reaction after an action. What reaction would a dummy give? There are some movements, or even pinning down - that can be done by using dummies, but 75% of it is incomplete without reaction. So, using dummies can be effective only up to 25% efficiency,” said Kuldeep Malik, during a chat with SportsCafe.
As I have already mentioned, the preparations were in full swing before the lockdown, as Malik stated that he was expecting many of them to book a ticket to the Tokyo Games, with four already set to grapple at the mega event. Kuldeep Malik has faced the heat before having already guided Sakshi Malik to a Bronze medal at the 2016 Rio Olympics so the veteran knows what it takes for an athlete to win a medal. The veteran believes that one can get a fair idea about where Indian wrestlers stand, only after things get back to normal, but he assured the fans that they’re going to try their level best, tackle the situation and ensure Indian wrestlers produce their best at the world stage.
“We had a lot of preparations in the build-up to the Olympics, which has been hampered due to the current health crisis. We were expecting many of our wrestlers to qualify for the Tokyo Games. As far as the chances at the Olympics are concerned, we can get an idea of where we stand only after the lockdown ends. But, we will try our best, tackle the situation and try to put on a similar performance if the Tokyo Olympics happen in 2020, as scheduled,” added the coach.
The question lies whether the postponement has helped Indian wrestlers in the context of the Tokyo Games or not. Olympic-medallist Sakshi Malik feels that the delay would ensure India brings back more medals from the mega event. But, her coach Kuldeep Malik feels otherwise. According to him, the current situation puts each of the participating nations in a spot of bother, so it will have an equal effect on everyone. He felt that if the pandemic was confined to a certain area, we could have made an argument about whether a country had the better of the situation while the other was in a disadvantageous state. But, all of them are in the same boat.
“The situation, according to me, is being faced by the entire world. If it had affected only India, we could have raised a case that others have taken a leap forward. But, we are all in the same boat, the future will answer who has lost out the most due to the lockdown. The Covid-19 situation as you can see is very unpredictable, we hope that the danger gets away very soon,” concluded Kuldeep, who once rejected an offer to train the USA's women’s team.
Wrestling is one of India’s golden ducks in multi-sports events, with India faring very well in the last three editions of the Olympics. The sudden halt of preparations has been a thing to ponder about, but who would have predicted that a pandemic would decimate the world like this? Either way, it is a waste of time to whine about the lost time, because it would be in the best interest of the contingent to devise ways to speed things up once the lockdown is lifted completely and when the spread of the virus has weakened.