Steamers, oximeters, masks: COVID-19 precautions on mind of Indian shooters


When Suma Shirur went through a checklist, while packing for the Indian shooting team’s trip to Croatia, a question came to her mind.

‘How many masks does one carry for a three-month trip during the pandemic?’

“The last training camp was 30-days long, so I carried 30 masks. That was a bit too much,” the chief coach of the junior rifle team tells The Indian Express before departure.

“This time what I’ve done is get rid of the old fancy masks and taken a few of the latest N99 ones. It’s snug and multiple-layered, but I might not have taken enough. I’ll probably have to buy some later.”

The 15 shooters, the coaches and support staff took a charter plane to Zagreb on Tuesday. From the Croatian capital, they will travel directly to the Tokyo Olympics in July.

Travelling during the pandemic required everyone to draw up a list of Covid-19-related ‘travel essentials’.

Masks, immunity-boosting vitamins, ayurvedic home remedies like kaadha, turmeric to mix with milk, supplements, sanitizers, steamers and oximeters are must-carry items, along with the guns and shooting gear.

This three-month sojourn is the longest most of them have been away from home while on tour. Everyone is taking extra precautions.

“I’m carrying some spices to make ayurvedic kaadha. Just boil it and drink,” women’s 25m pistol shooter Rahi Sarnobat said recently at a SAI-organised press conference. “I’ve also got ayurvedic tea bags, haldi for haldi water or milk.”

For 10m air pistol sensation Saurabh Chaudhary though, carrying ayurvedic medicines has become a requirement.

“He’s taken some traditional syrups and powders to increase immunity since he just recently recovered from Covid,” says his coach Amit Sheoran.

Shirur too has carried her share of ayurvedic tablets, not just for herself though, but for the entire team.

“They’re mainly for cough and flu-like symptoms. I’ve personally never needed them, but I’ve always carried them (even before the pandemic) because, you know, these are kids.”

Vitamin tablets and similar supplements have been packed by Sarnobat, Mairaj Khan (men’s skeet), and men’s 10m air rifle shooter Divyansh Singh Panwar’s coach Deepak Dubey.

Every shooter had at least one sanitizer in their carry-on baggage on the charter flight on Tuesday. Thermometers, oximeters and steamers took up additional space in their baggage.

“I’m also carrying a steamer. I’ve never carried any of these things with me before,” Sarnobat added.

Shirur opted not to travel with a steamer though. “I didn’t take it as I know the physios are taking several along.”

As important as a 10.9 score is in shooting, 36.5 to 37.5 degree Celsius on the thermometer, and a minimum of 96 on the oximeter are key numbers now.

Coincidentally, the trigger finger is the same one used to check oxygen levels.

Manu Bhaker just wants to study as she has her BA exams in a few weeks. (File)

Shooters have to undergo a seven-day quarantine in Zagreb.

“That would mean we’d have to equip ourselves with enough stuff to make sure there is no monotony,” Shirur says.

Sarnobat, a voracious reader, has carried six paperbacks and uploaded E-books to last three months.

“I’m already 30kg over in baggage,” she says.

Shirur has carried a “nice, thick book,” while high-performance coach Deepali Deshpande wants to finish a Khaled Hosseini novel she had started reading. Jeffrey Archer is on the reading list of women’s 50m 3-position rifle shooter Anjum Moudgil. Works of Paulo Coelho and thrillers by Lee Child is Elavenil Valarivan’s (women’s 10m air rifle) choice.

Panwar has carried the Bhagavad Gita and his fellow men’s 10m air rifle competitor Deepak Kumar will read the Vedas.

Meanwhile, Manu Bhaker, a bona fide star in the women’s 10m air pistol event, wants to find time to study. She has her BA in political science exams in a few weeks. Bhaker has taken “light fitness equipment” for in-room workouts.

Moudgil, an avid painter, plans to paint over masks. Deshpande packed acrylic paints and fit an 18 X 13 inch canvas in her suitcase.

Game of cards and chess is on the agenda of some of the coaches.

Being abroad and not under lockdown or curfew means there is the option to explore the outdoors.

Once the quarantine is over, Shirur will hit a running route. “I’ve carried my running gear. I haven’t been on a run since before the pandemic.”

Meanwhile, Rajput and Panwar plan to stream shows on Netflix. The latter has downloaded the entire Mahabharat series on his laptop.

Comfort food

Though they will be far from home, comfort food will be a go-to option for most.

Kumar has carried ready-to-eat Indian dishes, and just like Chaudhary, he’s got laddoos too. Valarivan has her stock of pickles and Shirur took along over a kilogram (instead of the usual 300 grams) of dates and four packets of khakhara. The coach also carried a mini coffee machine.

Deshpande does not snack on instant meals but this time she has carried with her a family pack of Maggi noodles for the first time in 22 years.

Elsewhere in Italy, where the two skeet shooters will be camping, Khan took with him around four kilograms of basmati rice, spices and dals.

Shooters also had to pack wisely keeping the weather in mind. Light sweaters for warmer days and heavier woollens for the evenings are the basic essentials.

“I’ve gathered all the ‘India’ T-shirts and packed them. Around 30 of them,” Shirur says, before adding, “and I just realised I’ll have to wash them all as well.”

She’s also got multiple full-size bottles of shampoo, conditioner and face wash this time. “Earlier I would pour them into little travel packs that would last a few days,” Shirur says.

If well begun is half done, having packed wisely is a good start for the Olympic-bound shooters.

(with inputs from Mihir Vasavda)



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