Team members say they are only trying to improve upon their Beijing performances
There is a touch of humility and sincerity when the Indian rowing team members - Sawarn Singh (single sculls) and Sandeep Kumar and Manjeet Singh (double sculls) - speak about their prospects at the London Olympics.
The Indian team chief coach and Dronacharya Ismail Baig said that they were only trying to improve upon their performances in the Beijing Olympics (21st in single sculls and 18th in double sculls).
The chief coach was candid when asked whether he was not negative in his thoughts. “I just want to be practical. Not talk big for we know our limitations and the competition there,” he said.
Yet, in terms of preparations, the rowing trio along with the chief coach were not found wanting as they diligently train in the Hussain Sagar Lake in the city, which is still rated as the best rowing centre in India by all the rowers.
“Well, we have a huge advantage of really training on hard waters here and then competing in the comparatively fresh, soft waters in London. This should make us feel pretty comfortable,” said the 24-year-old Sandeep Kumar, who has been training here for the last four years.
His partner in double sculls Manjeet Singh added that there would be no pressure by way of expectations and they should hope for a decent performance.
“Who knows if we have a little bit of luck we can still surprise many,” said the confident duo even while stressing it was not going to be easy especially with the Europeans likely to dominate the event. The rowing team will have the privilege of training for about 10 days before the Olympics. “The fact that we made it to London in the Olympics qualifier this April in Korea beating some of the big Asian powers is something we are proud of. Now having realised our dream of making it to the Games, we are definitely keen to give our best,” said Sandeep and Manjeet, who have been training in double sculls for more than a year now.
For his part, 22-year-old Sawarn Singh, who finished 17th out of 34 in the last world championship, has the more onerous task as he pipped the 2010 Asian Games gold medallist Bajrang Lal for the trip to London. “Yes, I am aware of it. But, that is past. In the team now, I have to live up to the expectations,” he said reminding that during training here he has been consistently clocking 7:01.00. “I am aware to be in the medal bracket I have to clock around 6:50.00,” he said.
A bout of typhoid and loss of confidence, according to the team management, saw the experienced Bajrang Lal miss the bus by a whisker. Thereby pushing Sawarn Singh, who never won an Asiad medal, into the fray.
“My first target is to reach the semifinals. Then we will see,” said Sawarn Singh who first thought of Olympics only when he saw the Indian campers train at the Lake when he took up the sport four years ago.
By all means, unlike many of the high-profile Olympics-bound athletes, these rowers leave the shores of the country with no big claims but with a desire to improve upon their previous performances.