Indian rowers eager to raise the bar

Dattu Bhokanal is among the Indian medal hopefuls in Jakarta.

Asian Games is an event Indian rowers look forward to every four years. From Bajrang Lal Thakar to Swarn Singh, the rowers have challenged mighty China and South Korea in the continental Games. This time too, there is excitement in the camp.

The rowers have been quietly going through the rigours at the Army Rowing Node in Pune, and are hopeful of bettering their performance at the Jakarta-Palembang Games. Assistant coach Ismail Baig is confident that Indian rowers would better the colour of their medals and timing. In the previous edition at Incheon, the rowers had returned with three medals with Swarn clinching bronze in single sculls. Besides, India won bronze in coxed-eight category and bronze in lightweight single sculls through Dushyant Chauhan.

The rowers are now coached by the 66-year-old Nicolae Gioga. Baig, who has had a long association with Indian rowing, hoped the experience of the Romanian would benefit the team. India has picked a 34-member team of 27 men and 7 women that will compete in 11 of the 15 events to be raced at Jakabaring Lake in Palembang. “It is after a long time that we are having a foreign coach. He is very good. The boys have been working harder in training to fine-tune their technique. The intensity might not be of the level which Nicolai expects. It cannot be compared with the Europeans, but we are confident of giving a good fight to the Koreans and the Chinese,” Baig told DH.

The competition would be expectedly tougher but the team’s focus is clear. “We want to get more medals with good colour. This training is part of the long-term vision, keeping the Olympics in mind. Four years ago, we weren’t good at single sculls, but today we have worked on that. We are expecting better timings from the team,” Baig said,

“The competition will always be tough with teams like Japan, China, Uzbekistan, Thailand and  Iran in the fray. We have been giving good performance at the Asian level and the Asian Games will be a test for us.”

Baig also dismissed the reports of “strange illness” hitting the rowers. “There is nothing serious. Nicolai gets scared, but it is common to get colds or sore throat in humid weather. There are no sport-related injuries,” he said.

Baig admitted the women’s team might not be very strong but expected them to return with better timings.

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Indian rowers eager to raise the bar

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