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Young Army rowers hope for a podium finish

V. Venkataramana

Fencing hopesOlympic AcademyIndian sailors

India’s hopes of bagging a medal at the forthcoming Olympic Games in Japan’s capital city of Tokyo rests more on the nation’s young talents who have qualified along with some experienced campaigners. This is especially so in the two major water sports disciplines of sailing and rowing along with fencing. In rowing India’s representation began in the Sydney Olympics. But till date no Indian rower has been able to break the ice, so to speak, and bring home a medal.

Talking to Trinity Mirror Rowing Federation of India Vice President Balaji Mardappa said, “Since the Sydney Olympics we have been qualifying and improving our performance in every edition of the Games. In Sydney we finished above 30. In the previous 2016, Rio Games our rowers finished 12th.”

For the Tokyo Olympics, India’s dream of bagging a medal and breaking the hoodoo, as it were, will rest with a young duo from the Pune-based Army Rowing Node Arjun Lal and Arvind Singh, who secured a convincing second place in the Light Weight Men’s Double Scull event (LM2x) at the Asian & Oceania Olympic Qualification Regatta held at Japan’s Sea Forest Waterway in May 2021. This enabled India to be represented in rowing sport at Tokyo, thus ensuring a continuity in participation since Sydney 2000.

And it was by chance that Arjun from a small town in Rajasthan and Arvind from Uttar Pradesh took up rowing. That happened in 2018 when they joined the Army. Their innate talent for this sport came to the fore at the Army Selection Regatta National Camp. “Since then Arjun and Arvind haven’t looked back, stated Balaji, who is a national-level coach based in Chennai. He had also accompanied the rowing team to the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.

Arjun and Arvind had been paired up  during the camp for the Asian Games in 2018. They have been rowing together for four years now. They brought laurels to the country winning silver in the Asian rowing championships held in South Korea in 2019. Apart from looking to fulfilling the dream of winning the first Olympic medal in  rowing for India, the duo is also looking forward to “put their best step forward and aspire for a gold,” according to Balaji.

The current national coach Ismail Baig has accompanied Arjun and Arvind for the Tokyo Olympics. In fact, a seven-member contingent went to Japan for the Olympic Qualification Regatta. The LM2x rowers qualified with another rower Jakar Khan, the sculler finishing in the fourth place. This meant that Jakar was eligible for the Olympics. But rules say that only one boat per country can qualify via the Continental Qualifier Regatta. Hence the LMx2 with a better ranking was eligible to compete in the Tokyo Olympics.

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