Not many in the sporting circle knew about Saurabh’s positive result and the National Rifle Association of India (NRAI) kept the details confidential. It had earlier been reported that another Tokyo-bound marksman, 10m air rifle specialist Deepak Kumar, was down with Covid and is currently under observation.
Confirming the development to TOI, Saurabh’s elder brother Nitin informed: “He [Saurabh] played his last event at the shooting World Cup on March 22, after which we returned home to Meerut the next day. Saurabh later complained of some weakness and pain in his eyes. He didn’t show any Covid-related symptoms like fever, low oxygen level or loss of taste and smell. Overall, he looked fine.
“Still, we didn’t want to take any chance with the virus and went for the precautionary RT-PCR testing in Meerut for our own satisfaction. It was around March 28-29 that his sample was collected and it came out positive for Covid the next day to our surprise.”
Nitin conceded that it was “quite shocking” for the entire family to hear about Saurabh’s positive result, given that the eight-time ISSF World Cup gold medallist had been taking utmost care and precautions to safeguard himself from the Covid-19 infection.
(Saurabh at the 2018 Asian Games in Jakarta – AP Photo)
“Honestly, the report came as a shocker to us. We were pretty sure that it won’t be Covid but some seasonal flu. We weren’t sure if he got infected during the World Cup. After his positive report, other family members, too, got themselves tested and, thankfully, everyone else returned negative. After completing his self-isolation period, he was tested again for Covid around April 7-8 and, this time, he came out negative.
“During his isolation time, the family members kept on motivating him that ‘you don’t have to worry about the virus and that this can happen to anyone’. We told him that the ‘important part is to remain calm and stress-free’. With the Olympics around, it’s important to keep his spirits high. Now that my younger brother has recovered, he has started light training.”
Nitin informed that Indian shooting’s chief national pistol coach, Samresh Jung, has told Saurabh not to exert himself and resume his shooting routine with light training.
(Saurabh with fellow 10m air pistol shooter Manu Bhaker – NRAI Photo)
“He didn’t train for 10 days after testing positive. Even now, he’s mainly focusing on light training as suggested by the coach…don’t want to rush into anything. He’s training at the home range for 2-3 hours daily, allowing his body to recover.
“On normal occasions, he would begin his daily routine at 5 in the morning, with shooting practice time reserved between 8 am and 12 pm and then another session in the evening from 3 pm to 6 pm.”
At the New Delhi World Cup last month, the reigning Youth Olympics and Asian Games champion was in stupendous form, shooting down a gold each in the 10m air pistol mixed team and men’s team events and an individual silver in his 10m air pistol discipline.