The Covid-19 pandemic brought the world to its knees, leading to sealing of borders, ban on travel, and postponement or cancellation of all major sporting events. So, athletes are now confined to their homes with the Tokyo Olympics delayed by a year.

With no competitions, no proper training and no sign of light at the end of the tunnel, there is widespread uncertainty and that is taking a heavy toll on the athletes mind.

Many athletes, when contacted by Mail Today, had said that they are meditating and doing yoga to keep themselves fit. But on Friday, while speaking to the paper, Olympic bound boxer Pooja Rani gave an ‘open’ answer.

“I am not feeling like a boxer right now. Really, it is tough to be locked like this. I know it is needed but it is becoming stressful for athletes. No matter how much I exercise or do mediation, it (lockdown stress) is somewhere disturbing me. I can’t go out as some cases of COVID-19 came positive in my area (Bhiwani). My area is completely sealed,” said Pooja.

“I can’t say about others but it will take two to three months for me to get my normal boxing routine both mentally and physically. I just pray to god all this gets over soon and we can get back to training soon,” she said.

Asked if she spoke the coaches and federation (Boxing Federation of India) about her mental stress, she said their guidance and motivation is what keeps the athletes going.

“They change plan (training schedule) daily so that boxers never gets bored with same routine. Meditation and yoga is also there but that’s not enough. In our sport we need partner for sparring. Well, I would say no matter you bring all the facilities at home, you won’t get that feeling,” the 29-year-old boxer emphasised.

Pooja made her mark with four international medals to her name. Last year, she capped a career-high by clinching gold in the Asian Championships.

The Tokyo Olympics might have been postponed to 2021 but it was Pooja who kick-started India’s memorable run in Jordan in the qualifiers.

Three years ago, she feared her career was over while celebrating Diwali with her family. She injured her hand when a firecracker left a deep scar in her stronger hand. Pooja was out of the ring for one year but her woes compounded.

“I had to go through surgery for that. It was my right hand so I started using left hand more (while training). Because of that I injured my left shoulder as well. So it was pretty tough to get back. But I never stopped myself and believed I could make a comeback. The doctors, at the time, suggested a surgery but I knew that I might not be able to make a smooth return to boxing after that.”

Pooja is currently locked at her home in Bhiwani. She praised government for all the guidelines announced to fight COVID-19, however, lashed out at people that are ignoring it.

“Government can’t do everything. We have to understand how dangerous it is right now. People think by using masks and washing hands, they will be saved. Social distancing is very important. You can’t ignore it.

“People in my area are not following it and it can harm others. I request everyone to not do anything stupid,” she concluded.

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