Indian rowers do not even have an outside chance of winning a medal at the Beijing Olympic Games but the way rowing has been coming up in the country for the last couple of years, there is no denying the fact that the standard of the sport is improving with each passing day.
Statistics speaks for themselves. Two years ago, at the Doha Asian Games, our rowers came up with their best-ever performance in the history of the Asiads, winning two silver and a bronze. And now it’s for the first time ever that three Indian rowers in two events --- lightweight double sculls and single sculls --- have qualified for the quadrennial Games.
"Everybody, including us, is going to Beijing with the sole aim of winning medals, but if we talk realistically, we don't have a chance of making it to the podium. The realistic target is top-10 and we will go for it," said 22-year-old Devinder Khandelwal, who along with Manjit Singh will be competing in the lightweight double sculls event at the Games.
"However, the qualification of three rowers proves that we are improving and can look at the Beijing Games as a launching pad for clinching medals in the next Olympics — London 2012," he added.
India's best bet is Bajrang Lal Thakur (26), who won the first-ever medal for the country at the Asian Games in 2006 when he clinched the silver in single sculls.
He then went on to bag gold at the Asian Championships in Korea last year. He won the quota place by winning gold at the Asian qualifying championships in Shanghai.
“I have a national mark of 7:06.00 sec (single scull – 2000m) and I will try my best to improve upon it in Beijing. I know that a top-10 finish is also a big task but if all goes according to plan and with a little bit luck, there is every chance of entering the finals (top-six)," said Bajrang.
As for the lightweight double sculls, 19-year-old Manjit Singh said, "At the Asian qualifying championship in Shanghai, we clocked 6:50.00 sec to grab silver and the quota place. During the preparatory camp in Hyderabad, we have regularly clocked 6:35.00 sec. In Beijing, we can touch somewhere between 6:20-25 sec and that timing can land us in the top-10."
Manjit, who hails from Chandigarh, had also created history by becoming the first-ever Indian civilian to qualify for the Olympics. After winning the Olympic quota, the rowers competed in the World Cup in Poland and shifted base to Shanghai in July, so that they could acclimatise to the climate.