Breaking norms, not an Armyman but a civilian wins medal for India at Asian Rowing Championships
Parminder Singh becomes the first Indian civilian to win a medal at the Asian Rowing Championships after many years.
The Indian men rowers would be delighted with their performance at the Asian Rowing Championships at the Royal Thai Navy Rowing Centre in Rayong in Thailand. India's overall tally of six medals was one better than the last edition.
Over decades the biting reality of Indian rowing has been that the best competitors have only come up from Indian Army background. However, the 2021 Asian Championships saw a major anomaly. Parminder Singh, a civilian, bagged silver in single sculls. His achievements would remain a major talking point in Indian rowing. The 21-year-old, who took up rowing in 2018, has hit success in his debut international outing in Thailand.
Speaking to The Bridge in an exclusive interview, he said, "I couldn't have asked for a better result in my debut international competition. This was a major learning experience because I was overweight for the boat I chose to compete. This competition has given me clarity."
Hailing from a rowing family, son of Inderpal Singh, who is with the Indian contingent in Thailand and India's first Olympian in rowing, Parminder made a huge turnaround at the finals, from finishing at the last position in the preliminaries. "In the prelims, I was just assessing the conditions at the course, trying to understand the wind speed and current. My father, who has been my constant support, kept motivating me. I was in a bit of pressure, to be honest, but this pressure turned out to be good for me," he said.
Despite not winning any national-level medal in the waters, Parminder had won a Asian Indoor Rowing championship gold medal in 2019. Learning his trade from his father, in 2019, Parminder shifted his base to the Pune Army Institute of Sports, where his training was taken care of under the legendary Indian coach Ismail Baig.
"This is just the start," believes Parminder, who will now be gearing up for a busy 2022 Calendar which has the Asian Games and Commonwealth Games lined up. "But first the focus would be on Senior National Championships in January," he said.
Besides Parminder, the two Army men Arjun Lal and Arvind Singh, who had created history at the Olympics - finishing at the 11th position, India's best-ever performance at the Games - also won gold medals. While Arjun Lal Jat paired up with Ravi in the men's doubles sculls event, Arvind went solo in the singles sculls event to get the yellow metal home.
Arvind, who clocked 7:55.942 in men's lightweight singles sculls to emerge as the winner, said, "I was confident enough to win this medal and knew it from the beginning I could do this after a satisfactory result in the preliminaries."
The Olympics was a major confidence lifter for Arvind. "A good performance at the Olympics gave me more confidence. After returning from Tokyo, people started recognising me, which had also brought more expectations on me. I got back to my training in Pune as soon as possible, because I knew the Asian Championships would be the platform to prove myself." says the Naib Subedar, who joined the Army in 2016 following the footsteps of his elder brother.
"I heard that celebrations are going on around my village. Dhol baj rahe hain, aur mithayein bat rahe hain (Drums are being played and sweets are getting distributed)," quipped the 25-year-old hailing from a hamlet in Bulandshahr, Uttar Pradesh.
The other medals for India were won by Ashish Phugat and Sukhjinder Singh, a silver in the men's lightweight doubles sculls. Two silvers were also won by men's quadruple sculls and men's four-team. The quadruple team included Bittu Singh, Jakhar Khan Manjeet Singh, and Sukhmeet Singh, while the four-team comprised of Jasveer Singh, Charanjeet Singh, Gurmeet Singh, and Puneet Kumar.