‘Tough to keep focus’

Five minutes before every training these days, weightlifter Rakhi Halder’s mind is occupied by thoughts of COVID-19 pandemic, Cyclone Amphan and safety of her family.

While the virus outbreak has created havoc across world, the cyclone destroyed crops and cow shelters owned by her family in Dakshin Bishnupur, a village in Nadia district of West Bengal.

Rakhi is among the elite Indian lifters aiming to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics. She is a 2019 Commonwealth Championships gold medallist, broke two national records at the 2019 Asian Championships and is ranked 19th in the qualifiers list for the Olympics.

As she trains in bid to not only qualify for the Games, but to put on a great show in Tokyo, the distressing situations have poised a big challenge in front of Rakhi.

“It is tough mentally. Every day as I gear up for my training, I think about my family, how the COVID-19 pandemic is going on and the cyclone has destroyed so much. It’s is an unpleasant situation, But as soon as my body is warm, the thoughts instantly vanish. I then only think about my training and how to improve every day. The lockdown situation is also not helping much,” she told Mail Today.

Rakhi Halder is currently training at NIS Patiala

Rakhi has stayed away from home for almost three years now. She has spent majority of her time at the National Institute of Sports (NIS), Patiala, and is locked up there since the virus outbreak.

“It is also tough because I haven’t seen my family for long. It feels like ages, I have been constantly touring or staying here in NIS at the national camp. I have come to terms with it and have no complaints about it, because my goal is to qualify for the Olympics. I believe these are some of the sacrifices you have to make for your dreams,” she added.

Speaking on her current regime, Rakhi said other than strength and conditioning training indoors, she prefers yoga early morning.

“Coach Vijay (Sharma) keeps taking updates and instructs us with the training. I prefer yoga as soon as I wake up early morning. It is followed by strength training and an evening session of the same. It is important to stay fit till the time full training is not resumed. We are here in NIS, and will remain here till the Olympics, I believe. So making use of the time is what I think is best to do in current situation,” she said.

For the Olympics, Rakhi, who would be making her maiden appearance, subject to securing the qualifying berth, and is excited to leave a mark on world weightlifting.

She also hopes a good show before the Olympics could also attract attention of sponsors. It must be noted that Rakhi is not part of the Target Olympic Podium Scheme (TOPS).

“I am thankful to the government for providing me the facilities and diet here in NIS. But as a lifter aiming for a medal at the Olympics, I require extra things like supplements, to further boost my chances. I currently have no sponsors and for the past two years, I have been requesting many to support my Olympic dream. Hopefully, when competition resumes, someone will identify my talent,” she concluded.

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