Javelin thrower Shivpal Singh is relieved that he has already qualified for the Olympics but rues the fact that he will miss out on rubbing shoulders with the world's best in the prestigious Diamond League series due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Eight events of the 14-leg Diamond League series, where only top athletes are invited to take part, have been postponed so far amid uncertainty of whether any athletics competition will be held at all this year due to the pandemic.
All Diamond League meets scheduled till June 13 have been postponed because of the pandemic which has killed more than 2 lakh people globally. The one still on schedule is the London leg on July 4. The grand finale is slated for September 11 in Zurich.
"It was a great feeling to be able to compete with the best in the world last year and I was looking forward to the Diamond League action this year also. But the COVID-19 has turned the world upside down and my plans are also affected," Shivpal told PTI in an interview.
"It is a relief to have qualified for the Olympics before the lockdown due to coronavirus. But the disappointment is that the Diamond League series are not being held. We don't know whether the remaining legs will happen or not," he added.
After winning a silver medal in the Asian Championships with a personal best throw of 86.23m last year, Shivpal took part in his maiden Diamond League meet in Oslo in June where he finished eighth.
Shivpal booked his Olympic ticket on March 10 in a competition at his training base in South Africa just in time before the global sports calendar went haywire.
He breached the 85m mark for Olympics qualification with an effort of 85.47m. He is the second Indian javelin thrower after Neeraj Chopra to qualify for Tokyo Olympics.
"Last year was an eventful one and my performance was going up. I was gaining in confidence and my graph was on the rise. But suddenly, the coronavirus happened and everything is uncertain now," said the 24-year-old from Uttar Pradesh.
"I was expecting a lot this year but now the whole season is in doubt. For me, this is a big setback."
Neeraj holds the national record of 88.06m and Shivpal said he can breached that mark.
"When I qualified for Olympics (with 85.47m) in South Africa, I had not given my full strength, I had thrown the javelin in low speed," he said.
"I was targeting to cross 88m during Federation Cup (which was to be held from April 10-13 but postponed). The target given by the coach is 90m."
Shivpal returned home from South Africa just a few days before the suspension of international flights. He is currently at NIS Patiala, where he is training indoors because of the nationwide lockdown.
"Nobody is allowed outdoor training. So, I do some core strength building training inside the room or the area just outside the room. Otherwise, I spend time listening to music or watching movies on my phone or laptop.
"I am not getting bored but it is tough also to remain without outdoor training for long. It has been more than one month now. But what can we do? We also have to follow the rules and guidelines of the government," said Shivpal.
"The federation is hoping to have some competitions later in the year, let us wait and see. I am just waiting for this pandemic to be controlled and sports competitions to begin."
For in-depth, objective and more importantly balanced journalism, Click here to subscribe to Outlook Magazine