In an exclusive conversation with the Softcopy, Tokyo Paralympics silver medalist Nishad Kumar and ace para-shuttler Prem Kumar talks about the Asian Games postponement.
Nishad Kumar was having lunch on Friday noon when he got a phone call from his coach, Satyanarayan to inform him that the Asian Games have been postponed. He didn’t feel like eating anymore.
“I lost my hunger as I received the news,” Nishad said, with a laugh.
Two days later he had come to terms with the fact that the Asian Games, originally scheduled to be held from October 9 to 15, 2022 have been postponed. Kumar along with several other para- sports persons’ was disappointed. Nishad Kumar won a silver medal for High Jump at the Tokyo Paralympics, 2021.
“We had five to six months before the games. But now if it gets postponed for a year, similar to the 2020 Olympics, we will have to train for another 18 months. Our training schedules will change accordingly. We were well prepared for the Games, if it was to happen in October,” Kumar explained.
China’s Hangzhou was to host the Asian Games. The city is only two hours from Shanghai, which is fighting the worst COVID-19 outbreak in more than two years. Consequently, the Olympic Council of Asia had to announce the postponement of the Games.
Satyanarayan, the chairman of the Sports Technical Committee of Paralympic Committee of India said that it was disappointing for the athletes, but highlighted that their players’ safety is also very important. “They didn’t want to postpone. Last week also we had a meeting with the organizing committee. They were so confident to host the event but unfortunately, it did not happen.”
He also said that there was pressure from other Asian countries to postpone the event. “This postponement is not due to the pressure from the Chinese government, this is due to pressure from other athletes and other member federations,” Satyanarayan added.
Reports have also mentioned that India’s sports Minister Anurag Thakur had been skeptical about India’s participation at the Games. “All the other participating nations are discussing and in some time India will also take a decision but before that, the host nation should make it clear what are they thinking and how much prepared they are,” the minister had said on the sidelines of an event.
The badminton players were also not happy with the postponement. “The news is not good for us,” said Ammu Mohan, who recently won two medals at the Brazil Para -Badminton International.
Prem Kumar Ale, who won two medals in Brazil was also disappointed with the postponement. “We had been preparing for the Games since last year or so. We were staying away from home as well. And now it is postponed. So it is a bit sad,”he said.
Prem also said that the situation and qualification scenarios might be different since the timelines will be changed. “We have to participate in the open tournaments to maintain our ranking. New players are joining in and if we don’t play, our ranking might reduce. Otherwise, I was thinking to take a break in one or two tournaments before the Asian Games but now I am not sure.” The rankings impact the qualification of the players in the Asian Games.
Gaurav Khanna mentors the Indian para-badminton contingent in Lucknow. He said, “The short- term target was the Asian Games, we were planning how many players will qualify and all those things. Suddenly you receive a message that there is no short- term target you have. So of course it affects the players. It feels like a vacuum.”
Khanna however said that the postponement shall be considered positively.. “Fortunately I got some time to focus on the areas on which they are not doing well. So it is good news if we see the positive part.”
Nishad Kumar had a similar opinion. “It is beneficial for us in a manner, since we will have more time to prepare ourselves.”
The new dates for the Games are yet to be announced. Satyanarayan said that it will not be organized till 2023. The qualification scenarios might change as well with the revised schedule. It will be worthwhile for the players to be patient and wait for the revised dates.