Youth, sport should have been given priority, not liquor: Nihar Ameen

The past few months have been devastating worldwide. As we continue our battle with the pandemic and look to the future after Covid-19, it is puzzling that liquor stores are non-essential early businesses to open. I understand that the economy is one of the driving forces behind that movement. But can the government, please, also reflect on youth and health?

I feel that the youth of the country should have priority. The government should have thought about what makes people healthier, thus improving immunity. Sport is the answer.

Like the rest of the world, these are also devastating times for the sports fraternity, but we have to chart our way back. The sooner the better. It would be foolish to say allow everyone to enter the sports arenas. But we have to start somewhere and that has to be with competence Athletes across age groups. This is what countries like Italy and Australia are doing.

For example, we have half a dozen swimmers with an Olympic qualification rating, they have already lost precious time and cannot afford to lose more. Athletes will take time to get back in shape before accelerating fully through training and practice because they would not have worked hard enough. In the case of swimming, it is very different because the activities in the pool on land cannot be replicated. I think it will take most of them at least three months to get back to their competitive form.

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In fact, swimming is among the safest sports to get back to right now if we maintain the chlorine level and the social distancing and hygiene norms off it. In an Olympic size pool, we can have 20 swimmers at a time, which is one swimmer per lane on either side. If we are given the opportunity, as coaches, we will ensure the Athletes return to sport in a safe environment.

I regularly interact with my swimmers on video calls and the only thing they always ask me is: When will we go back to the pool, sir?

I hope that the government has an answer to that question as soon as possible.

THE ADDRESSES HAVE SUFFERED

For those of us who are also entrepreneurs, it has been a nightmare. We have missed annual income. There has been an outflow of money without income. We have been paying rent, leases, staff salaries, managing maintenance and other general expenses. But we cannot sustain ourselves for long.

Most of us in the swimming fraternity have spent large sums to keep the pools clean to make sure they are ready when the swimmers return and also to ensure that they do not become a health risk. If standing water was left in the pools, it could have caused waterborne illness and that is the last thing we wanted.

I sincerely hope that the government helps the sport and that all its stakeholders recover as soon as possible.

( Nihar Ameen He is a national swimming coach, Dronacharya award and program director of Dolphin Aquatics )

(As told to Manuja Veerappa)

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