Thirteen Indian boxers, all aspiring to qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, have been caught by surprise due to an outbreak of Coronavirus in Italy. The boxers are with their sparring partners, coaches and trainers in the famous Italian town of Assisi, about 175 kilometres from Rome.
The high performance coach of the Indian contingent Santiago Nieva has sent an SOS to the Boxing Federation of India urging that the boxers should immediately be evacuated from Italy before any damage is done.
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"They have closed the airport in Milan and they may close the airport in Rome. We are supposed to fly to Jordan on February 28th. Chances are that we will get stuck here and miss the qualifiers in Jordan," Nieva said in an urgent message to the federation officials on Monday night.
"There is no need to panic. We are making arrangements for the boxers to go to Jordan early. We have spoken to the Jordan Olympic Association officials too. Our boxers will not miss the qualifiers," assured Jay Kowli of BFI.
Top Indian boxers like Mary Kom and Amit Panghal are among eight men and five women training in Italy. The Asian qualifiers start in Jordan from March 3.
The Coronavirus has impacted sporting events in China and has also left Tokyo organisers in the lurch. China has cancelled several preparatory events and their Tokyo Olympics aspirations have taken a massive hit. The outbreak of the virus in Europe will only queer the entire pitch as nations prepare for the Games.
"We are taking all the measures to keep our boxers safe. The federation is working 24x7 to ensure safe passage from Italy," said Kowli.