From October 1, Indian men's team rowers have paced up their training in Pune for a four-month national camp. With necessary guidelines in place because of the COVID-19 situation, the rowers are aiming to give their best shot and qualify for the 2021 Tokyo Olympics in April, when the qualifying event will be held in South Korea.
Starting with Asian Games gold medallists like Dattu Baban Bhokanal and Sawarn Singh, SAI named seven singles sculls rowers, including Sukhmeet Singh, Bittu Singh, Jakar Singh, Roopendra Singh, Parminder Singh for the camp.
While the five lightweight men's doubles sculls rowers named for the camp are Rohit Kumar, Bhagwan Singh, Arvind Singh, Arjun Lal Jat and Sunil Attri.
Rowers engaged in gym training at the national camp
24-year-old doubles sculls rower Arvind Singh is happy to be back at the training drill after spending 40 odd days at his home in Uttar Pradesh during the lockdown. In a conversation with The Bridge, he said, "The break due to the coronavirus situation has surely affected our preparation, but I kept on training at my home, doing the regular exercises. I am glad that the camp has resumed, and we can train for the Olympic qualifiers in April next year."
Arvind started his rowing career in 2016. He saw others pursue many different sports but felt rowing can be vastly popular one day if they give enough efforts, which was the reason for him to take up this sport.
His persistence paid dividends. In 2018, he won two gold medals in Pune Nationals, which gave him the chance to take part in the Asian Games in Jakarta and the World Rowing Championships the same year. However, his best performance came in 2019, when he won two silver medals at the Asian Rowing Championships. "It was a proud moment for me and I was very elated. Right now my sole target to attain qualification for the Olympics at any cost," says Arvind.
Singles sculls rower, Jakar Khan is also aiming for big guns. The 23-year-old put on a stellar show when he made his international debut at the Asian Rowing Championships last year and picked up a silver medal. "I can't describe how happy I was winning the medal at Asian Championships that too in my maiden international outing. I couldn't have been there without the efforts of my coaches," says Jakar to The Bridge.
Post lunch rowing sessions in Pune
Jakar, who started his career in 2017, kept up his consistency and also bagged two silver medals at the Hyderabad Nationals in 2019.
Both Arvind and Jakar are students of Dronacharya Award-winning coach, the legendary Ismail Baig. Under the aegis of this 54-year-old coach, India won as many as 156 international medals, including two Asian Games gold, ever since he took over as Indian coach in 1999.
"Ismail Sir is the best coach we could ask for," says Jakar. He adds, "He is at time tough and at times polite, he guides us like a great teacher."
The rowers attend three sessions of training every day. In the morning after they train for three hours, they eat their breakfast and take some rest. Again their drill starts following a short break. In the afternoon, they eat their lunch and take rest for a couple of hours, and again their last session of rowing starts by 4 PM. On Wednesdays and Saturdays, they train for half days and they look to continue this regime for the next four months.
"We are confident we will attain the qualifying mark for the Olympics, we have been training and exercising in the right discipline. I need to achieve the 6:10 minute to qualify, which I beleive can be scaled by April," concludes Arvind.
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