Her accomplishments include three gold, two silver and one bronze medals in national-level rowing, but Sankavi Puhazhendi is not resting on her oars. LIFFY THOMAS in conversation with the eighteen-year-old student of architecture

A summer camp for aspiring rowers was the starting point of what turned into a hobby and later evolved into a serious sport for Sankavi Puhazhendi. She began to row at 10, and now at 18, she has racked up an impressive list of achievements – three gold, two silver and two bronze medals at the national level.

Recently, she won a bronze at the 16{+t}{+h}Sprint Nationals Rowing Championship held in Kerala.

The win was important as it was an open category race, where every State sends its best rowers. The winning teams get to be part of the Indian camp, which serves as a launch pad for international competitions such as Asian Games and World Rowing Championships.

“Contestants who have participated in the Olympics and those much senior to us rowed. It was a tough competition,” says Sankavi who teamed with Iha Diwan for the double scull race.

Her achievements as a rower look even more impressive, when her commitment to formal studies is factored in.

After successfully juggling school and rowing practice, the former student of DAV Senior Secondary School, Gopalapuram, hopes she can manage the same as a college student. Doing this has been tough so far.

Currently pursuing her first year B.Arch at MESAI School of Architecture, Sankavi recalls, “Being postponed a couple of times, the All-India Inter University Rowing Championship almost clashed with a semester exam.” She won the bronze at the single scull event. Her regimen is taxing. She rows in the Adyar River for two hours in the morning and two-and-a-half hours in the evening. It also involves physical exercises such as running, jogging and practice on weights.

“I worked for nearly a year to master the techniques of rowing. It requires lots of stamina and endurance,” says Sankavi, adding that regularity matters in the sport.

Ask her about her future plans and Sankavi replies, “The prospects are limited in the sport. If you are going to make rowing a career, then the job of a coach is the best you can have.” But that is for later. For now, she is focused on making a splash as a rower.