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


EXCLUSIVE: 'Olympic medal for India is long way off,' says Rowing Federation president

Indian rowing will look for a 'fresh beginning' under the leadership of Rajlakshmi Singh Deo, who was recently elected as the President of the Rowing Federation of India (RFI) for the third consecutive term.

EXCLUSIVE: Olympic medal for India is long way off, says Rowing Federation president

Suhrid Barua

Updated: 21 July 2021 1:32 PM GMT

Indian rowing will look for a 'fresh beginning' under the leadership of Rajlakshmi Singh Deo, who was recently elected as the President of the Rowing Federation of India (RFI) for the third consecutive term. Deo, who had represented the Sculling and Rowing Association of Andhra Pradesh in the recent elections, has a massive task at hand as she strives to boost the development of the sport in her five-year tenure that runs till 2024.

The RFI top official is clear about her priorities and is keen to fast-forward the progress of women rowers in the country. She makes her displeasure abundantly clear:

I'm a little disappointed with the lack of women rowing talent in the country. Women rowers, who have been winning medals for India for the last 10-12 years, are still winning the Senior Nationals with ease and there are no young talents to challenge them. At every Senior National meet, including the recent Senior Nationals in Hyderabad, we are seeing the same old faces winning it, which does not augur well for women rowing in the country.

Interestingly, the country's women rowers won a medal at the Asian Games for the first time in the 2010 edition in China via the Odisha duo of Pratima Puhan and Pramila Prava Minz in the coxless pair event that happened to be the only time our women won an Asiad medal.

Rajlakshmi Deo
Rajlakshmi Deo

"Pramila Prava Minz is still featuring in the Senior Nationals and winning medals. Same is the case with Sanjukta Dung Dung, who represented India at the 2014 and 2018 Asiad, is also winning gold at the Senior Nationals. These are worrying signs as far as women rowing talent is concerned," Deo says.

Rowing has given India a fair amount of success at the Asian Games – the country has won 23 medals so far including 2 gold, 5 silver and 16 bronze. The names of Bajrang Lak Thakhar (he won India's first Asiad gold in the 2010 edition as well as a silver and bronze in 2006 and 2014 Asiad) and Jenil Krishnan (he won three medals in different Asiad – 2002, 2006 and 2010) are names that have surely contributed to Indian rowing attaining some degree of popularity. Of course, India like most Asian nations are many, many streets behind nations like USA, Great Britain, Germany, Romania, Australia and New Zealand.

And the Rowing Federation of India has its perspective on how a nation like India can produce Olympic medals. She opines:

The sustained long-term training is the need of the hour. Young rowers have to be with the RFI for 10-12 years and then only we can hope of Olympic medals. The hassle is that rowers after landing a job, be it with police or in the Army move on with their lives after winning international laurels and perks associated with it. Unless rowers are willing to sacrifice and set themselves for the long haul an Olympic medal for India is a long way off.

The RFI is also perturbed over the fact the government has stopped sanctioning junior camps from August this year. It may be noted that two junior camps of 40 days each were sanctioned earlier this year and from this exercise, the federation could identify 20 boys and 20 girls who would form the core junior rowing team.

rowing india

"The government has decided to integrate junior rowing camps with the Khelo India academies, which is extremely frustrating for us because it is a big ask to monitor rowers and pick the national side when rowers are training in scattered academies across the country and not in one location," says the RFI President with a tinge of frustration.

Despite all the odds, the RFI took a call to conduct a 'contributory camp', wherein the junior men and women rowers forked out Rs 20,000 each for a camp in Hyderabad to prepare for the Asian Junior Rowing Championship held at Thailand recently. "Such a 'contributory camp' was never heard of in the history of Indian rowing as rowers agreed to pay from their own pockets – even the coaches and the support staff worked for free for sheer love of the sport. And India went on to win two silver medals in the coxless pairs and coxless fours events," Deo reveals.

Infrastructure-wise – the Sports Authority of India's (SAI) two rowing centres in Alleppey, Kerala and Jagatpur, Odisha have the best of facilities but still have issues. "Both centres have extremely humid conditions and the Kerala centre has high houseboat traffic owing to smooth training is not always possible," she points out.

Indian rowing will be training hard for the Asian & Oceania Continental Qualification Regatta – the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Qualifier that will be held in South Korea from April 27-30. The RFI is upbeat about Indian making the Tokyo Olympics cut. "We are hopeful of qualifying in the singles sculls," she says confidently as the country will look to improve on her medal haul in the 2022 Asian Games in China. "Five medals is our target for 2022 Asiad and I'm sure it is very much achievable. For now, the Olympic qualification is our main focus and we can take it from there," Deo signs off.

Next Story