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An uphill task for Indian rowers ahead of World Championship

A gargantuan task awaits the Indian rowers as they gear up for the 2019 World Rowing Championships that gets underway at Linz-Ottensheim, Austria from August 25 to September 1.

An uphill task for Indian rowers ahead of World Championship
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By

Suhrid Barua

Published: 20 Aug 2019 9:38 AM GMT

A gargantuan task awaits the Indian rowers as they gear up for the 2019 World Rowing Championships that gets underway at Linz-Ottensheim, Austria from August 25 to September 1. Indian rowers will have their work cut out at the 49th World Rowing Championships, as they are not considered serious medal contenders – a big-ticket event which has been dominated over the years by nations like Italy, Germany, USA, France, Canada, Great Britain, Australia, New Zealand, the Netherlands, Ireland, Norway and Romania. Suffice to say; it is the European countries that have been holding sway over the World Rowing Championships.

India may have struggled to make a ‘podium impact’ at the marquee event, but Asian countries have also invariably found it tough to walk down the ‘medal’ path in this high-profile event – even a sporting powerhouse like China has found it hard to get among the medals at the World Rowing Championships – in fact, they are the only Asian country to win medals in these championships over the last few years or so.

Quest of improvement at World Championship

The 2019 World Rowing Championships assumes a lot of importance as it serves as the main qualification event for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympic Games and that probably explains why the 49th edition has attracted a record-breaking 1,200 athletes from 80 nations. In the Indian context, 2019 World Rowing Championships will be more about improving on their timings and positions as a podium finish does not appear to be a realistic possibility.

The Rowing Federation of India (RFI) has handpicked a ten-member squad for the 2019 World Rowing Championships – the team will compete in five events – men’s single sculls, men’s double sculls, men’s lightweight single sculls, men’s lightweight double sculls and men’s coxless fours. The Indian rowing contingent comprises 2018 Asian Games quadruple sculls gold medallist and 2014 Asian Games single sculls bronze medallist Sawarn Singh, 2018 Asian Games quadruple sculls gold medallist Sukhmeet Singh, 2018 Asian Games lightweight double sculls bronze medallists Rohit Kumar and Bhagwan Singh besides Arunlal Jat, Arvind Singh, Gurinder Singh, Gurmeet Singh, Punit Kumar and Jasveer Singh. The Indian rowing team will also be accompanied by chief coach Ismail Bagh and coach Gurdarshan Singh.

Sawarn Singh and Sukhmeet Singh will feature in the men’s double sculls event, while Rohit Kumar will compete in the men’s single sculls event. Arunlal Jat will slog it out in the men’s lightweight single sculls event, while Bhagwan Singh and Arvind Singh will battle it out in the men’s lightweight double sculls event. The quartet of Gurinder Singh, Gurmeet Singh, Punit Kumar and Jasveer Singh will compete in the men’s coxless four events.

Building upon Asian Games success

It may be worth recalling that India is participating in the World Rowing Championship after a gap of four years – they had given the 2018 edition held in Bulgaria a miss because of the 2018 Asian Games. India’s best-ever performance at the World Rowing Championships came about at the 2013 edition held in South Korea, where Sawarn Singh finished 12th in the men’s single sculls event.

Although the medal-winning chances are slim, the Indian rowers can surely build on their impressive showing in the 2018 Asian Games, where they lapped up one gold medal and two bronze medals. “The Indian team has been preparing well, but it will not be easy given the highly competitive nature of this tournament where the European countries and USA largely dominate. We are upbeat about putting up a good performance in Austria,” says Indian rowing team chief coach Ismail Baig.

The Rowing Federation of India (RFI) has handpicked a ten-member squad for the 2019 World Rowing Championships
Indian rowers can surely build on their impressive showing in the 2018 Asian Games

Baig, who has been serving as the national coach of the Indian rowing team for close to two decades now, believes the boys would be determined to give their best shot.

I will be more than happy if our team can reach the ‘C’ finals or even ‘B’ finals – that will be some kind of achievement for us at this championship.

Rowing Federation of India secretary general Girish Phadnis, who had featured in the 1982 New Delhi Asian Games, sounded bullish about the Indian team’s chances. “Medals may be out of our range, but we are confident that our rowers will dish out a solid performance on the back of our good showing in the 2018 Asiad.”

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