Olympics Begin In
Begin typing your search above and press return to search.

Asian Games

Asian Games: Reserve rower Balraj Panwar's 4th-place finish outshines 5 medals

India won 5 medals - 2 silver and 3 bronze - in Rowing at the 2023 Asian Games. The biggest surprise, however, was a 4th-place finish by a rower who was not initially supposed to be in the squad - the 24-year-old Balraj Panwar.

Asian Games: Reserve rower Balraj Panwars 4th-place finish outshines 5 medals

Rower Balraj Panwar in action at the Asian Games 


Dipankar Lahiri

Updated: 25 Sep 2023 4:22 AM GMT

Hangzhou: India's rowing contingent equalled their best ever haul of five medals at the ongoing edition of the Asian Games here with the addition of two bronze medals on the final day for the sport on Monday morning. The most surprising story of the day, however, was a 4th-place finish - by the completely unheralded Balraj Panwar.

The 24-year-old Balraj, a sepoy hailing from Karnal in Haryana, had picked up rowing just two years ago after a coach in the Indian Army suggested that he use his six-feet height to try his luck. He has participated in only one national championship so far and made his international debut in July this year. He was picked in the Asian Games squad for the single sculls event as a substitute for Satnam Singh, who had opted to shift to quadruple sculls.

"A new star has been born. We had tried new rowers at the trials for the Asian Games, Balraj is someone who has shown rapid progress over the last two years. He aced the trials and now he has proved himself on the Asian stage. I think it was always meant to happen," Rowing Federation of India (RFI) president Rajlaxmi Singh Deo told The Bridge.

Balraj even looked set for a podium finish for the most of Monday's race. But in the last 250 metres, he was pushed to 4th spot as the Hong Kong and Japanese rowers pushed to catch up with the Chinese gold medallist. Eventually, Balraj finished 11.73 seconds behind the gold medal spot.

"I'm very happy with my performance, I got my best time today. I'm also happy with the 4th-place finish. I had worked hard for this and had come prepared. You only get back what you put in," Balraj said after his race.

Before the event, Balraj had said he wanted to win a medal for the sake of his mother, who had single-handedly raised him and his five siblings after his father's death when he was 11 years old. His mother, who worked in a garment factory in Karnal, needs some well-deserved rest, he had said.

While the medal remained elusive, Balraj's breakthrough performance spells happy times for the family.

"I'll keep working hard for the next Asian Games. The Olympics are decided by quota positions so that's not in my hands," the rower said.

Rowing has been India's most successful sport at this year's Asiad so far with two silver and three bronze medals. Indian rowers have won medals at every Asiad edition except the 1986 edition. The 2010 Asiad remains the best ever showing by Indian rowers - 1 gold, 3 silver and 1 bronze. This time, there were 2 silver and 3 bronze medals.

The RFI president, however, said she is slightly disappointed because no gold medals were won this time.

"We would have loved to have won one or two gold medals. I had come here expecting more, maybe two more medals. The races were all exciting, and our rowers all tried their best, there's nothing they could have done more," she said.

Next Story