It was a long, hard grind — not just with the oars but with the sports officialdom — for the four young rowers who participated in the Asian jr championships in Singapore earlier this month.
Before they boarded the flight to Singapore, they underwent a harrowing time, including the sanctions for the camp being withdrawn just when their preparations were in full force and the required government clearance for participating in the championships not coming about. It’s indeed a miracle that they came back with two silver medals and lot of pride in their heart for the country — but none for the officialdom.
Chandigarh boy Manjit Singh, Pune’s Amar Patil, Karnataka’s Vinod Kumar and Orissa’s Rohit Kumar Swain almost missed their flight to Singapore after their trip wasn’t cleared by the Ministry, and the Rowing Federation of India (RFI) had to take loan from a bank to send them.
Confirming this, RFI secretary CP Singh Deo said that it would have been suicidal to not send the team after almost 24 weeks of extensive training. “We had no choice but to take a loan and send the boys, otherwise they would have been demoralised,” he said.
“Ideally we would have fielded a six-member team, but we could not afford that after the Ministry rejected the proposal. So, we sent only four rowers for the championships in the coxless-four and coxless-pairs categories. It was indeed tiring for the rowers who first participated in the ‘fours’ and then two of them took part on the ‘pairs’,” said Deo.
Indeed one of the juniors on conditions of anonymity confirmed this and said that had someone fallen sick, “we wouldn't have been able to participate in the ‘fours’ category.
“We’ve always had a smooth sailing with the government, but this time around the sanctions for the camp were withdrawn abruptly in May and a 30-page complaint was forwarded to us by the government observer. I’ve replied to it and things are back to normal, but it has come as a dampener for the youngsters, some of whom will participate in Doha Asiad in December.”
It is a sad thing that a sport which comes under the ‘priority’ category and has brought medals by the bagful — the most recent in the memory being the eight-medal haul at the Asian Sr championships at Hyderabad last year (4 gold, three silver and a bronze) — be treated in such a manner. “Events like the Asian jrs are mandatory and if we do not participate in them, we face relegation in international competitions and back home our ‘priority’ status could go.”