Indian boxing's European tour: Four Covid tests in 10 days, operating in a bio-bubble

NEW DELHI: Indian boxing team’s almost two-month long trip to Europe is nothing short of a challenge. They will undergo four Covid-19 tests within a span of 10 days and operate in a bio-secure bubble before leaving for Europe, and will move in small batches during the tour. Their off-the-ring skills would be put to as much strenuous test as their skills inside the arena.
The Tokyo Games-bound boxers and other hopefuls will be leaving for Assisi in Italy on Friday for a 52-day long exposure trip, on which they will train and compete alongside pugilists from other European nations. The European sojourn will form part of their Olympic preparations and will also offer a chance to those who are yet to qualify for the Games, with the final qualification tournament scheduled early next year.
Before arriving in Italy, the 28-member contingent, including 10 men and six women boxers along with the coaching support staff, will have to undergo four Covid-19 tests (two in India and two in Europe) before they can start training at the national boxing centre in Assisi. Boxers and the coaching staff were training in NIS Patiala since first week of August before they were allowed to leave for their respective hometowns. After the European tour was announced, the boxers were told to report back to the NIS by October 10. The boxers and coaches were allowed inside NIS only after submitting Covid-negative certificates obtained from the local health authorities of their respective states.
The boxers and coaches were tested on October 11 in NIS and TOI has learned that their test reports have come negative. They were supposed to be tested again on Tuesday but it didn’t happen. The contingent will again be tested on October 15 in Delhi before boarding the flight to Rome. The contingent was originally scheduled to leave on Thursday but their departure was pushed ahead by a day. At the Rome airport, they will be tested again on October 17 and will only be allowed to travel to Assisi by road (two-hour road journey from Rome) after their tests are normal. At the boxing centre in Assisi, they will be tested again and will undergo a mandatory quarantine period in self-isolation before being allowed to train.
India’s high-performance director Santiago Neiva has already flown out to Sweden on a vacation and will be joining the team directly in Assisi next week, TOI can confirm. Indian boxing’s women’s team coach, Raffaele Bergamasco, is already in his hometown Assisi, tending to his ailing wife. The boxers will operate within the specially-created bio-secure bubble and will travel in small groups within the premises. This has been done to minimise the risk of a large group of boxers getting infected during their stay.
The Indian boxing federation (BFI) managed to secure the visas after getting an invitation from the Italian National Olympic Committee (CONI), which has treated this tour as part of the Indo-Italian bilateral sports engagement. The same invitation has also been extended to other European boxing countries to make the Assisi camp a multi-nation training camp. Apart from the Italian national team, Indian boxers will also train with Irish boxers.

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