This piece was published in Sportskeeda
Rowing has been one sport that has always struggled to capture the imagination of the public in India. To call spade a spade newspapers often find it hard to accommodate adequate space for this sport, which despite exuding all the promise hasn’t been able to take off owing to the odds heavily loaded against them. Rowing was introduced in the 1992 Delhi Asiad and although India have intermittently kept winning bronze medals in Asian Games, it was not until one man by the name of Bajrang Lal Takhar ensured that the sport grabbed the eyeballs corning the country’s first Asian Games gold medal at the 2010 Guangzhou Asian Games in the single sculls event. Eight years back at the 2006 Doha Asian Games, it was again Bajrang Lal Takhar, who scooped India’s first Asian Games silver medal again in his pet single sculls event.
It has to be said that Indian rowing started the process of making its presence felt in the Asian Games at the 2006 edition in Doha, where they won three medals – two silver and one bronze. The sport scaled a new high at the 2010 Asian Games Guangzhou where Bajrang-inspired India picked up five medals – one gold, three silver and one bronze. Clearly, the signs were there that the Sports Ministry, Sports Authority of India (SAI) and the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) had to put more focus on rowing as it held immense potential of churning out medals at major multi-sport events like Asian Games, Olympics among others. Of course, the Indian rowers may feel a tad disappointed that the three medal haul at the 2014 Incheon Asian Games was lesser than the five they won in the 2010
Clearly, the signs were there that the Sports Ministry, Sports Authority of India (SAI) and the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) had to put more focus on rowing as it held immense potential of churning out medals at major multi-sport events like Asian Games, Olympics among others. Of course, the Indian rowers may feel a tad disappointed that the three medal haul at the 2014 Incheon Asian Games was lesser than the five they won in the 2010 Asiad, but their performances left nobody in doubt that rowing is a sport that can be nurtured and can provide us a bucketful of medals in the future. Naik Subedar Sawarn Singh gave India a bronze in the single sculls event – an event Bajrang Lal Takhar has etched a name for himself. Dushyant Chauhan bagged another bronze on his international debut in the lightweight single sculls event, while the country added the third bronze in the men’s coxless eight event.
The exploits of the country’s rowers was not just confined to the Asian Games arena. Three rowers - Sawarn Singh, Virk along with Manjeet Singh and Sandeep Kumar – even qualified for the 2012 London Olympics; of course, it’s a different matter altogether that they failed to make a podium finish. One must laud the Indian Army for regularly producing medal winners at major international competitions, one feels that the corporate houses must come forward and support our rowers as banking on Indian Army’s infrastructure for the medals cannot be the way forward. The ideal scenario should be such that all states must focus on grooming rowers on a priority basis, while the Indian Army can continue its good work of training and nurturing rowers.
All and said done, Indian rowers must be encouraged to the hilt. The government agencies must put extra focus on this sport and who knows an Olympic rowing medal may not be far away!