Indian weightlifters in limbo as new COVID-19 variant cast doubts over Weightlifting World Championship

Indian weightlifters are scheduled to compete at the Weightlifting World Championship in Tashkent, Uzbekistan. However, they are in a state of limbo at the moment due to new travel restrictions caused by the new omicron variant of COVID-19.

Indian head coach Vijay Sharma said they are confused about the competition under the new circumstances. He revealed that the Uzbekistan Weightlifting Federation had assured them earlier that the Worlds would go ahead as scheduled. The first batch are set to leave on Wednesday. In an exclusive chat with Sportskeeda, Sharma said:

“We are not sure what is happening. I woke up today and read the news about the world weightlifting championship that might get cancelled. We talked to UWF and they told us the competition will be held. It is confusing now. For now, the first batch of weightlifting will be leaving for Tashkent on December 3.”

Visitors from nine African countries and Hong Kong were barred from entering Uzbekistan under new travel restrictions amid the Omicron variant. All inbound and outbound flights to these nations will be grounded as of Friday (December 3).

Moreover, weightlifters from another 10 countries will not be able to participate at the Worlds due to the 10-day quarantine upon arrival in Uzbekistan. These nations include Australia, Britain and Italy, who have collectively entered 22 athletes.

A total of over 60 weightlifters, including eight from China, will not take part in the marquee event. The number is expected to grow in the coming days.

Another major problem for the IWF is the depleted number of technical officials who will be unable to travel. Without them, conducting the competition, due to run from December 7 to 17, will be nearly impossible.

The Worlds’ body is monitoring the situation closely. They are expected to announce the cancelation of the weightlifting world championship tomorrow after consultation with Tashkent.

Indian Weightlifting Federation (IWLF) President Sahdev Yadav said they are keeping a close watch and will take necessary action if needed.

What does the cancelation of Weightlifting World Championship mean for India?

The sporting calendar has been heavily impacted due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Commonwealth Championships is the main qualifying event for next year’s Commonwealth Games in Birmingham. It was set to coincide with the Weightlifting World Championships.

However, under the current circumstances Australia, Botswana, Lesotho, South Africa and the British nations will skip the event. In their absence, the Commonwealth Championships cannot go ahead.

As for the Weightlifting World Championship, it was important for India to improve the rankings for the CWG qualification. Vijay Sharma said their chances for qualification will be hampered if the competition gets canceled. However, he found solace in the fact that the situation will be the same for everyone.

“Our main aim was to qualify for the CWG in Birmingham. If the world championship gets canceled, our chances will get hampered. But then, the situation is the same for everyone,” he said.

This is especially bad news for Jeremy Lalrinnunga, an outstanding lifter who is one of the medal contenders in 67kg in Taskent.

“Jeremy has been training well and is very technical. The world championship would be a good testing ground for him. A cancelation will be bad news for athletes,” Sharma added.

For now, the only hope of salvaging the Weightlifting World Championships lies with the Uzbekistan authorities. If they grant exemptions to teams flying in for the competition, the Worlds can go ahead. But then, there will still be hesitation amongst nations to travel for it.

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