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What happens when one billion people can’t play sports?

An empty football court of a school is seen after the school remained closed on account of smog in New Delhi
Reuters/Anushree Fadnavis
Covid pushed sports in India out of sight, out of mind.
  • Ananya Bhattacharya
By Ananya Bhattacharya

Tech reporter


The first two weeks of India’s Covid-19 lockdown in March came as a welcome break for Khushi Kaushal Shah. Until that point, the 17-year-old professional speed skater had been training non-stop.

Shah is India’s top under-19 female speed skater. Before the pandemic, she would hit the rink for two to three hours in the morning to work on speed and technique. In between, she would go to the beach for off-skate training, or strength workouts.  Her plans for 2020 included competing in the World Games and Asian Roller Skating Championship.

Her happiness over the break was short-lived.  The coronavirus ultimately put a months-long end to sport in India, much to the dismay of its 1.3 billion sports-mad citizens—and the even greater dismay of its athletes. Forced to stay indoors, Shah spent hours watching videos of her old races. She tried to work out now and then, but felt demotivated.

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