The virus that stalled the restless world of sport

Covid-19 has accomplished the near impossible task of a clean break for stressed athletes. With a season that barely takes a break, this downtime should help athletes connect with their families and find more of themselves

Corona Virus - John Hopkins Corona Resource Centre

14 March 2020: Athletes barely rest these days. Break sweat, burn calories, tame competition and repeat is the order of the day for many of the top athletes pursuing professional sport. Television, fans and social media are pouring millions on the table and athletes find it hard to turn their glare away. Sports managers find it increasingly difficult to find the ideal balance between competition and rest as there is an increasing demand from consumers who want an endless stream of instantly gratifying action. But the spread of Covid-19, Novel Corona Virus, has brought the industry to its knees and found a way to send constantly traveling athletes and their bulging teams back home to their families.

Professional sport is serious business. And as athletes build up their rhythm for a big run at the tournaments that truly matter, the break does hurt their preparations and momentum. But that is besides the point. Now that the viral outbreak has forced a shutdown, a task that the players and management found beyond them, it offers the golfers and other athletes a breather from the routine and much needed rest.

It is not that every golfer and their caddie will enjoy that thought. It is important to recognise that this is a professional occupation with no pay cheques. Especially for the athletes in the middle and bottom tier of the sport, this is a painful loss of prospective income. But even then, this is a break that can do more good than harm.

First, they will be able to spend some quality time with their family, a luxury that is far from lost on the minds of these itinerant travelers. It could help strengthen some relationships, heal some wounds and add some more happiness into their golf bags when they eventually return to the circuit.

It is also very rare for the golfer to have an opportunity to fix their game midway through a season. The break affords the golfers an opportunity to go back to the drawing board and realign the errant pieces. On this count alone, expect to see some high quality golf when the season resumes at the end of this pandemic.

The PGA TOUR waited to the last minute before suspending their calendar at the end of the first round of the Players Championship. The Masters followed suit a few hours later when they postponed the event, even while hoping to squeeze it in later. It remains to be seen if Augusta might find the window for a fall celebration carpeted by some colourful foliage around its spectacular course. The Asian Tour and European Tour have also suspended all their events till further notice. It is likely the Tours will review the situation some time in April to figure out the next steps depending on the continued status with the spread of the virus around the world.

Anirban Lahiri has returned home from the USA and is spending time in Ahmedabad with his family and friends. The PGA TOUR golfer has unfettered access to the Kalhaar Blues and Greens Golf Club and could use some time shaping his game for the road ahead. As it is Anirban was away traveling as he played out the PGA TOUR schedule through the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

The Asian Tour is also on a break and Rashid Khan, who has played himself sore, can use the rest as he prepares for his first ever experience in the Olympics. Question marks abound about the quadrennial games, but no matter when they take place, the rest will help Rashid prepare his body and mind for the biggest tournament of his career.

As I type this out, Udayan Mane has a share of the lead in the Bengal Open. If he can stay clear of Aadil Bedi and Mukesh Kumar among other contenders, it would be a mind numbing fourth straight victory on the PGTI Tour. It has never been achieved before and Mukesh is only other golfer in the field who understands what it takes to win thrice in a row. At the end of the round tomorrow, the PGTI Tour goes into a period of hibernation and while Mane may not fully enjoy the loss in momentum, it might only help him savour his recent success and continue building his aspirations to join Rashid as the other Indian representative in Tokyo 2020.