By Susil Premalal
Only two national sports associations have responded positively to a circular issued by the Ministry of Sports to resume training activities for the national pool by June 1, according to sources.
Following a meeting of heads of selected sports bodies and the ministry officials held on May 11, only the Sri Lanka Weightlifting Federation and Sri Lanka Wushu Federation expressed their readiness to commence training next month.
Athletics, football, kabaddi, volleyball and netball sports bodies had indicated that since all international competitions scheduled for 2020 had been postponed indefinitely because of the coronavirus pandemic, there was no urgency to resume training soon. However, most national coaches have provided fitness programmes through online methods for national players to keep practicing at home, the ministry has been informed.
Since weightlifting and wushu required more focus on techniques, the respective sports bodies displayed their willingness to the Sports Ministry officials of their eagerness to resume daily training by June 1.
Most of the officials questioned how they can take responsibility for the athletes when the Colombo district was in a state of curfew continuously and the health situation in the country was still fluid.
Meanwhile, India has decided not to send any of their athletes for any international meets in 2020 because of the coronavirus outbreak. The Athletics Federation of India had conveyed this decision officially yesterday to Maj. Gen. (Rtd.) Palitha Fernando, President, Athletic Association of Sri Lanka, it was revealed. In addition, the Indian federation has decided not to convene the national pool for training but have advised them to continue training individually.
Sri Lanka’s Ministry of Sports had requested doctors in their medical unit to draw up health guidelines to be followed by athletes. They have been advised to formulate separate guidelines for indoor, outdoor and aquatic sports activities.
Physicians attached to the Sports Ministry had already submitted certain guidelines to be followed by athletes with priority being given to the health of sportsmen and women, according to a doctor.
If pool training is not possible, athletes should continue their fitness schedules under the supervision of the national coach but ensure they maintain social distancing, it was pointed out. All these guidelines have been formulated adhering to the directives of the Health Ministry and Defense Ministry.
Even the rules of sports may be changed because of the coronavirus in the future, said a healthcare professional pointing out as an example when South Korea resumed football competition within closed doors without spectators, players were not allowed to spit on the field empowering the referee to show the red card if any player was found spitting.
“Although resumption of national pool training is a timely decision, it is the responsibility of the respective national sports associations whether to go ahead or not,” said R.B. Wickramasinghe, Assistant Director, Sports Development in the ministry.
The Boxing Association of Sri Lanka (BASL) is gearing up for a return to international competitions.
“We will keep on practicing. There is one tournament in December (Asian Championship) and one more trial for Olympics as well which was supposed to be in Paris. Other than that people are doing their own activity. Still we won’t do any sparring or anything because being a contact sport it can be dangerous. Health and well-being of athletes is our number one priority, rather than have any meets even without spectators,” said Dian Gomes, President, BASL.
Lasitha Gunaratne, President, Sri Lanka Rugby (SLR), said there is no reason to convene the national pool because all tournaments in Asia have been postponed indefinitely.
World Rugby has published guidelines for the safe return to rugby activities in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic via its player welfare website.
“But clubs and schools are closed. Players can’t come for training. First, we have to adhere to government guidelines. If we can get through that, the next step is World Rugby guidelines,” he said.
Dr. Namith Sankalpana, Chairman, SLR’s medical committee, said lifestyles of players have to change in future with face masks being used for training, hand washing and maintaining social distance.
“It will be a challenge for them but we have to do it as there is no other option. There is a risk but we want to minimise the cross infections. If we wait till COVID-19 is thrown out of the world, then it will take more than one and a half years according to what scientists and health authorities say. We cannot wait for that but we have to go on with normal life. But we have to change our lifestyle,” he said, who contributed in drawing up the World Rugby guidelines.