Pooja Dhanda looking to make most of unexpected Olympics postponement

Injuries in 2019 had dampened 2018 World Championships bronze medallist Pooja Dhanda’s hopes of making it to the Tokyo Olympics significantly. She fell off the top billing in the 57kg category with the young Anshu Malik taking her place.

However, the postponement of the Olympics has given the 26-year-old an unexpected boost to make it to Tokyo.

 “I was thrilled,” Pooja told IANS when asked about her first reaction to the Olympics getting postponed. “I fared very poorly in qualification, and I knew that my performances went down because of the injury. It was a matter of happiness and relief that the Olympics has been pushed back by a year.

She said there was a sense of disbelief in the beginning about the postponement, which was the first-ever in over 120 years that the Summer Olympics had been held.

“Even after the announcement came, I couldn’t believe it for some time. It was such a huge decision to make, postponing the Olympics by a year. It was a big surprise, and it’s good because finally, I have a chance now to improve my performances and get there,” she said.

Currently, like all sportspersons in the country, Pooja is confined to her home in Hisar, Haryana where she said that she has a few gym equipments that she uses to train.

The Wrestling Federation of India cancelled its men’s and women’s national camps on March 16 and Pooja said that in the beginning, she was taking it easy hoping that normalcy would return sooner than later. However, she understood that the unexpected break in the wrestling calendar is here to stay once Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the ongoing lockdown on March 25.

“When we had returned from the camp, we had no idea that this disease would grow like this, and the situation would become this serious. So, in the beginning, it was fine, but once the lockdown came, it got a bit difficult,” she said.

Women’s wrestling coach Andrew Cook is home in the United States of America. Still, he keeps sending training programmes and videos on the Whatsapp group that is made for the national campers.

Injuries have been on Dhanda’s heels throughout her career. A ligament injury in 2015 had led her needing surgery, and a long time away from the game, 2019 saw her mentioning a knee injury which kept her away from the Senior Women’s Nationals in November 2019 and went on to haunt her in subsequent competitions. She, however, says that she is now completely fit.

For now, however, she is looking to stay safe at home. The WFI for its part has informed Dhanda and her colleagues that there will be no further competitions until a significant update comes from the government with regards to the pandemic.     - IANS