They came from diverse backgrounds but shared a common passion — rowing. They were no longer young, had professional careers that consumed much time and energy, but still pursued their dream.
When reputed filmmaker Bharatbala met Dr. S. Arumugam, director, Sri Ramachandra Sports Medicine Centre, at the Madras Boat Club a few summers ago, rowing connected them immediately.
Their bonding soon gave rise to D-Force, a team that featured Bharatbala and Arumugam, and kindred spirits, Shiva Subramanian, Manoj Kalarakkal and Nawaz Ibrahim. They competed hard in the last World Masters rowing championship in Belgium and plan to take part in the next edition of the event in New Zealand.
While they derived immense joy and satisfaction from their rowing exploits around the globe, the members of D-Force also wanted to take their association with the sport to the next level. They wanted to lift the standard of rowing in the country.
This gave rise to Mission 2024, where the goal is for India to win a medal at the Olympics Games that year.
“We have only one rower going to the Rio Olympics, in skulls. We want to increase that number considerably in the 2024 Olympics. And we want at least one medal,” Bharatbala told The Hindu on Wednesday.
And Sri Ramachandra University’s magnificent infrastructure for the sport, which includes state-of-the-art biomechanical, training, conditioning and rehabilitation facilities, meant the D-Force had the tools to implement Mission 2024.
Arumugam told this newspaper: “We have a man-made water body of 600m, four-lane rowing and floodlights, the first in Asia for rowing, at the campus in Sri Ramachandra.”
In fact, in a bid to popularise the sport, there are plans to invite rowing teams from the world to compete in sprint championships (250m) soon.
And driven by the Mission 2024 quest, Sri Ramachandra University has signed a path-breaking MoU with BAT Logic, an Australian firm that helps athletes realise their full potential while reducing the risk of injuries.
Dr. Edmund Wittich, a performance innovation expert at BAT Logic, said: “We want to put meat on the bones of the plan to get better performances. If you can prevent injuries, learn the right techniques through bio-mechanics, then your performances improve.”
As many as 320 sportspersons training under BAT Logic have won international medals. And 14 world records have been set in the process. “It is about understanding the body and knowing how to get the best out of it,” said Dr. Wittich.
Given the scale of this ambitious programme, there is no dearth of experts at the Sri Ramachandra Sports Medicine Centre. Among them is former fitness trainer of the South African cricket team, Andrew Gray.
He looks after the strength and conditioning of the rowers. “Good aerobic capacity and whole body strength and coordination are a must for rowing,” he said.
India’s population means it has, potentially, a large pool to pick from. The country, however, needs to get more youngsters interested in rowing.
Fired by its dream, the Sri Ramachandra Sports Medicine Centre wants to raise the bar for rowing in the country.