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Shuttler Prannoy recalls ‘bubble struggle’ in Thailand; says mental health of prime importance

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New Delhi:  The ‘nightmare’ that he endured while being confined in a bio-bubble in Bangkok made ace Indian shuttler HS Prannoy realise the importance of addressing the mental health concerns that sportspersons are facing in the post COVID-19 world.

International badminton restarted after a long pandemic-induced break and players had to stay in a bio-bubble while competing in the Asian leg championship in Bangkok earlier this month.

“…it was first time we went into a bio-bubble. We didn’t know what was going to happen,” Prannoy said during a webinar.

“For two weeks, we couldn’t go out of our (respective) rooms. We were only allowed to go for practice, go to main hall, to go to the bus. We were not allowed to walk even outside the stadium.”

Prannoy said after a few days it started affecting him mentally.

“…because you are not allowed to go out to have say sunlight. You just have to sit in the room for 22 hours, since we were only training for 2 hours,” he recalled.

“We cannot meet teammates. It was a nightmare and after six days, it was taking its toll on me. I was not able to understand how to handle it…”

Prannoy and Saina Nehwal — both of whom had tested positive for COVID-19 last month — returned positive again for the infection on the eve of the Yonex Thailand Open and were forced to withdraw.

The duo were later cleared to participate after their “antibody IgG” was found positive.

“It was one of the most taxing days because from morning till night, we were in the hospital. There was no communication, we were told we have to be in quarantine for 10 days. Our entries were withdrawn but at the end of the day they said we were free to go,” he said.

“Imagine, I am coming 9:30 at night from hospital, next day I had a match and then in the morning, I am coming to know that the match was shifted to night.

“At such junctures, you need someone to share all these things, because as a professional player, you just know how to play and don”t know how to handle all these situations.”

The 28-year-old from Kerala said a psychologist could have helped him deal with it better and hoped there will be a structure in place to assist the players in the times to come.

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