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Indian Rowing: Then and Now


The Indian national rowing team is likely to be under a totally different upbringing or at least such is the notion under the new Romanian coach, Nicolae Gioga. The 66 year old stalwart who doesn’t like to go by the norms and is always known to have unique ideas up his sleeve, is the new silver lining to the Indian Rowing federation which hopes to prop up the medals tally in the imminent Asian games.

Gioga has already made his intentions pretty clear after taking over. He has proudly gloated about his penchant for earning gold medals in the Olympics and said that having achieved 2 gold medals at the Atlanta Olympics and 3 gold medals at the Sydney Olympics; he is now aiming to break his own record and make it a sweet 4 golds at the Olympics in a single year.

Although he has realistically clarified that his dream of getting 4 gold medals at the biggest stage might not be possible with India, he has assured that he will put in his best efforts and aid the Indian rowing team in getting as much silverware as possible in the upcoming Asian games. He has declaimed that he will be aiming for a bare minimum of 2 gold medals which can a huge boost considering India only managed 9 bronze medals at the previous Asiad.

In 2010 at the Guangzhou Asian Games however India had managed to bag 1 gold, 3 silvers and 1 bronze medal in rowing.  Gioga who had helped Romanian women crew end their long insatiable thirst for a gold medal has started scouting juniors for lightweight and heavyweight categories and finds promise in the likes of Dushyant Chauhan, the lightweight sculler from Haryana. Dushyant who squandered a great chance to bag an inevitable gold in the lightweight category on the final day of the erstwhile Asian games at Incheon will definitely want to make amends under the guidance of new coach, Gioga.

The man who won back to back Olympic gold medals with the national team in 1996 and 2000 and as much as five gold medals in the latest Asian Games with Iran complains that the number of athletes is lot more than the number of boats available. However the aforementioned statement has got nothing to do with the dearth of game equipment. He has basically stressed on the fact that the pool from which the athletes are being selected for the national camp is a bit too huge for his liking. He believes that the Rowing Federation of India instead of including everyone who managed a podium finish in the national championship should do away with some of the second place finishers who have a massive difference in timing behind the gold medallists while screening the probable candidates for the national camp.

However the most uncertain and unique feature about Gioga is his training method. In the short time that he has spent with the rowers he has been quick to assess that the main problem with the Indians is not in their technique but in their rhythm. He believes that the first 500 m is not as much important as is the last 500 m. He has also said that most of the rowers under him have managed a podium finish because of their painstaking efforts in the last 200 odd metres. Rowing to him is a sport which requires more endurance and less speed. He has strict reservations when it comes to the balance of the boat and he adds that he gets scared the moment the boat becomes slightly unbalanced. Gioga has studied the diet of rowers over the years and has come to a conclusion that rowers must follow a vegetarian diet. Meat and its supplements, he believes, releases unnecessary toxins which are not helpful for a sport like rowing. He however doesn’t force his preference of diet on rowers and leaves it to their free will and the suggestion of the dieticians looking after their meals.

Gioga, the uncanny modernizer that he is, doesn’t have much faith in the classical method and if the Rowing Federation of India (RFI) encounters some drastic changes in the selection procedure for the Asian games, it wouldn’t be surprising at all. He has full confidence and belief that his own method is good enough to earn laurels and one cannot really complain much about it with what Gioga has to show till date. There is a possibility that rowers may be assessed individually in single sculls and not in pairs or groups of four. This will enable the examiners to identify the skills of the athletes and their pedigree to perform at the highest level with a greater degree of efficiency. He has also suggested amendments in the scouting criteria to the RFI. Height and arm span are two important attributes that the RFI should focus on as he believes that a huge country like India should never really have a dearth of quality athletes performing at the highest level. Moreover he stresses on the importance of the physical attributes more their skills so that endurance of the athletes gets tested better. Gioga has been quick to identify the problems with Indian rowers. While the female athletes are short, males lack bodyweight. And because of the lack of physicality, the athletes often manage to win a medal at the national level but fail to convert it into a medal at the international level.

Indians have been pretty decent at the earlier Asian games but with Gioga to groom them, they inch a step closer to realizing their dreams of winning the Olympic gold medal, which is much craved for. However as we all know, all good things come at a cost and the Indian rowers too need to do it the hard way and swallow a few bitter pills under the Romanian coach Nicolae Gioga, if they want the result to be in their favour.


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