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Down to 50% fitness level, want to train: Chirag Shetty

NEW DELHI: The wait-and-watch policy can become frustrating for an athlete when he is ‘waiting’ as the situation demands, but at the same time also ‘watching’ some of his compatriots return to training. Doubles badminton ace Chirag Shetty finds himself in a similar situation.

Shetty’s hometown Mumbai is among the cities most severely hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. The alarming number of positive cases in the state of Maharashtra, specifically Mumbai, have forced the authorities to keep most things shut, including the sports facilities. As a result, Shetty hasn’t been able to return to proper training despite the central government’s go-ahead last month for stadiums to open for training without spectators.

And that has led to a significant drop in his fitness, which, he candidly admits, is down to 50-60 percent now.

“Right now, none of the sporting complexes (in Mumbai) are open. I have been running outside as there’s less traffic on the roads,” said Shetty talking to Timesofindia.com.

“The elite athletes (in Mumbai), I think, should at least (be allowed to) start (training) at any stadium. All the other states have already started. So I think in small groups, like not more than four people, they can actually start. Badminton is a sport where you can actually maintain social distancing,” adds Shetty, who partners Satwiksairaj Rankireddy on the BWF circuit.

Shetty has been in constant touch with his physical trainer, who prescribes fitness routines over the phone or a video chat. But the 22-year-old shuttler believes it’s not enough, as court fitness is a different ball-game altogether.

“My fitness as of now, I think, is 50-60 percent. If I go on the court (at this stage) and start playing, I will be tired in like, I would say, half an hour. Running fitness and on-court fitness are two completely different things,” said Shetty, pointing at his requirement for proper training.

“When you are running, it’s just linear movement. But while playing badminton, there are sudden movements. When you are smashing and everything, the whole body is moving. That is a whole lot different,” he explained.

Shetty, along with Satwik, created doubles history for India last year when the duo became the first pair from the country to win a Super 500 tournament (Thailand Open). It lifted them to No. 7 in world rankings for doubles at that time.

They were No. 12 when the BWF froze its rankings on March 17, as the COVID-19 pandemic forced the circuit to be suspended.

The break forced all Indian athletes to be confined to their homes, but many elite shuttlers have resumed practice, including at the Prakash Padukone Academy in Bengaluru. However, the Pullela Gopichand academy in Hyderabad, where Shetty and Satwik train, remains shut at present.

“We had (a word with Gopichand Sir), but it was in the last week of May. The plan was to start in the first week of June with a small group of people, but even that got cancelled because the (state) government didn’t allow any of the sports stadiums to open in Telangana.

“Now tentatively on the first of July they might start, if the government permits, but that is not confirmed,” said Shetty.

Shetty, who was part of India’s gold-medal winning mixed team at the 2018 Commonwealth Games, also hinted that the Indian players might be at a little disadvantage compared to players from other countries, who hardly ever stopped training.

“Right now, considering the situation, India is the only country that has not yet started proper training…In Asia, Malaysia and Indonesia had complete lockdown. But for a month now, even the Malaysian and Indonesian players are practising at their national centres. Only the Indians are not practising. It’s a bit difficult to see, but we can’t really help it,” said a frustrated Shetty.

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23rd June 2020

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