Rower Manjeet Singh won the prestigious Dhyan Chand Award for Lifetime Achievement in Sports and Games by the Union Sports Ministry last month. He has had a deep impact in the sport leaving a legacy for himself for future generation after participating in the 2008 and 2012 Olympics. The 31-year-old Manjeet, one of the youngest to get this Award and like many rowers in India, is a product of Dronacharya and chief national coach Ismail Baig and feels this Award should only motivate him to look for a third Olympics appearance.
Our team caught in interaction with Manjeet after he received the honourable award. Here’s the excerpt from the interview.
Q How were you introduced to this sport?
Ans: After finishing my education, I had shifted to Chandigarh. Over there, I had seen some of my friends who were in the Police Forces practising at the Chandigarh Sukhana Lake. That is when I got immensely interested to take up the sport. This is how I was introduced to the sport.
Q: How did your career progress?
Ans: To make a career in rowing, I had to take the first step of working very hard. In 2004, I had joined the CRA. After winning a silver in Junior National Championships, I realized that I am capable of doing something big in rowing.
Q: What do you rank as the ultimate highlight in your career?
Ans: I had represented India in Beijing Olympics2008, won 2 silver medals in Asian Games of 2010, represented India in the London Olympics of 2012. These are, I believe the greatest highlights of my career.
Q: You had initially trained at the Chandigarh Lake Club and then you shifted to Hyderbad Camp for Asian Junior Camp. How different were the experiences from each other?
Ans: In the beginning, I used to practise in the state equipment provided at the CRA. After going to Hyderbad Camp, I was able to practise in international level equipment. National level coaches were there to train me which resulted in the great improvement of my performance.
Q: You had represented India in Men’s Lightweight Double scull in 2008 and 2012 Olympics. How did you manage to take India to the Olympic Waters?
Ans: In 2007, I was in sweep rowing. After noticing my talent, RFI recommended that I should start sculling and that would lead to the better utilization of my talent. That is how I led Indian rowing to the Olympic waters.
Q: In the 2012 Asian Olympic Qualification Regatta, you came in third in men’s lightweight category. To get to that level, what was your average day in those days?
Ans: After returning from 2008 Olympics I won medals in the 2010 Asian Games and participated in the 2012 Olympics in the same category. For that, I had to constantly keep myself in my peak performance. I used to practise for 3 sessions per day which led to the increment of my performance.
Q: Representing India in two consecutive Olympics requires a great amount of patience. It is basically a preparation of at least 8 years. How did you manage to do so?
Ans: For a sport like rowing, a great amount of patience is required. Starting from learning to maintain the balance of the boat to the crossing the finishing line is not an easy task. Even I have spent nights after nights thinking about aims and focussing on them. Only after that, I got a chance to represent India in the Olympics.
Q: What is your winning philosophy?
Ans: I have kept myself and the boat always ready before the race. From the “SET, ATTENTION, GO” of the referee to the finishing beep of the race, I have maintained my race plan and have changed it mid-race. I have always kept one hundred per cent faith and trust in myself and my training.
Q: How do you feel after receiving one of the prestigious National Sport award – The Dhyan Chand Award?
Ans: My life’s greatest achievement is being awarded the prestigious Dhyanchand Award. Without the unending support from RFI and my parents for the past 16-20 years, nothing would have been possible. My parents always gave me the freedom to do what I felt correct and did everything under the sun to support my career. They had even worked harder just to afford my sports diet. I am greatly indebted to the Rowing Federation of India and ARTY for their relentless encouragement. If CRA had not introduced me to rowing, I would not have been a recipient of this award. I will always credit my coaches and trainers for guiding me and correcting my mistakes. I will always remember my friends who always encouraged me.
Q: What advice would you like to the budding rowers and the Olympic aspirants of our country?
Ans: The rower must always have one aim or goal and should always abide by it. The rowers should always work hard and maintain a proper diet. The rowers must always respect their coaches and seniors.