Following a long injury lay-off, 800m runner Manjit Singh is eager to train again as government has opened the doors for outdoor practice with the COVID-19 lockdown 4.0 guidelines.

While the training is set to resume soon with AFI’s Standard Operation Procedure released on Tuesday at the NIS Patiala national camp, Manjit was happy that he will be able to brace the track again with the aim to qualify for the 2021 Tokyo Olympics.

The 2018 Asian Games champion, however, reflected at the challenges that athletes are bound to face with the new set of guidelines.

“We all welcome the decision by the government as AFI and athletes really worked hard towards it. With the new set of rules for Coronavirus during training, we athletes will have to adapt to this new normal,” Manjit told Mail Today from Patiala. “It’s not going to be easy, especially for mid-distance runners like me who prefers to train in a group while running. Also, we have to be careful about maintaining hygiene at all times, it might take a while to get used to it all. But we eventually will because we don’t want to sit in our room again.”

2018 was the brightest year in the athlete’s career when he came out of the shadows of his training partner Jinson Johnson. The 30-year-old mid-distance runner clinched 800m gold from the latter at the last lap in Jakarta.

However, a right knee injury soon followed, putting him out of action for an entire year. When asked if he is worried about another injury with the abrupt halt in training due to the lockdown, a fit-again Manjit disagreed.

“I was working really hard before the lockdown as Olympics were few months away at that time. I was trying to have a strong off-season before we had to stop. If I didn’t train indoors during the break, I would have been prone to injuries. Also, I will gradually increase load during training in the coming weeks so that something unwanted doesn’t happen,” he explained.

While the mid-distance runner specialises in both 800m and 1500m events, Manjit has decided to focus on one event for the Olympics. However unlike Jinson — who is preparing for 1500m — his compatriot has decided to train for the faster 800m and wishes to train at higher altitude location like Olympic-bound 3000m steeplechase runner Avinash Sable; who is in Ooty with coach Amrish Kumar.

“My focus for the Olympics will be on 800m only. For that I will like to train in a high-altitude location as Patiala is not feasible for endurance running. I hope that AFI or SAI will put up a camp at such location soon,” said Manjit, who is currently training under coach Kamal Ali.

In the past, mid-distance runners have often stressed on participating in high-level competitions for fast races to attain big competition qualification mark. One such recent example is Jinson improving on his 1500m national record in Berlin; something he predicted before the race.

However, Manjit, whose personal best is 1:46.15 seconds in 800m and chases 1:45.20 secs to qualify for the Olympics, believes he can achieve the cut-off mark in Indian races itself if he gets a good off-season.

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