Representational picture
Representational picture

Bhopal: Early in the morning, 18-year-old Harshita Tomar wakes up to train at her terrace with the morning dew. The Covid-19 induced lockdown had shut down all the gymnasiums and academies. She had nowhere to go to keep fit. But Tomar had to keep going, without aid.

She had to handle household chores with her grandmother for her mother was stuck outstation in lockdown. Tomar has won a gold at Senior National Sailing Championship in Mumbai after activities resumed. She was in the waters, once again playing her dream. And, she made it count.

Tomar says the activities were shut for seven long months. It was stressful not being in the waters and preparing for the same. Tomar claimed she realized later the lockdown, in fact, benefited her. She used to get the required amount of rest and training. Home-made food made her gain weight, keeping fit with personal training, which she had been trying for two years, she said.

Fighting hard

The Covid-19 outbreak had put the sports sector to an all-out stop. But the Madhya Pradesh sportspersons did not take it as it came. They fought hard to overcome the circumstances and returned with 32 medals, 14 being gold, at three national tournaments, including horse-riding and sailing, within three months after the activities resumed.

The state sports department did not let down the players and introduced side-help to mainstream. The Sports Science Centre that has been working in the state for over 12 years became activate and innovative with the pandemic. The department collaborated with Olympian Abhinav Bindra and ELMS Foundation at the city stadium to introduce high-performance technology.

Sports and youth welfare minister Yashodhara Raje Scindia had earlier said that, for the better performance of the players, it was necessary that they were prepared to face the challenge physically and mentally and the High-Performance Leadership Program played a positive role in promoting inner strength. The department then collaborated with sports performance psychologist from Singapore Sports Council, Sanjana Kiran. She, along with Abhinav Bindra Foundation’s performance manager, Rohan, took sessions on mental health of athletes. Rohan had said that mental health of athletes has three major parts — namely psychological safety, self-awareness and athlete mental resilience (mental toughness).

A high-performance program was prepared by Abhinav Bindra and ELMS Foundation, especially for the coaches, players and support staff. Sailor Tomar also mentioned that sports psychologist Sanjana Kiran’s training sessions helped her cope with the stress that she had during the lockdown. Notably, such sessions are one of its kinds being implemented in the state.

‘Tough to recover for players for they are accustomed to movement’

The head of the state sports science centre, Jince Thomas Mathew, told Free Press it was a time when players needed to be recuperated both physically and emotionally for they were away from sports for a long time.

He said these were people who were accustomed to movement. It was only human to jump into a worst-case scenario, he said. The interdisciplinary team of sports science psychologists counselled them, identified problems and red-flagged serious cases to be handled, he said. The players were conditioned and given a prehab, he added.

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