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Wednesday, Sep 18, 2019

Asian Games 2018: Seeking promotion, Army’s brothers in arms land glory

The men’s quadruple sculls team of Sawarn Singh, Dattu Bhokanal, Om Prakash and Sukhmeet Singh added the golden touch to India’s best ever haul of three medals at Asian Games 2018

asian-games-2018 Updated: Aug 25, 2018 11:11 IST
Saurabh Duggal
Saurabh Duggal
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
Gold medallists Indian rowing Men's team members Sawarn Singh, Bhokanal Dattu, Om Prakash and S Singh at Asian Games 2018.
Gold medallists Indian rowing Men's team members Sawarn Singh, Bhokanal Dattu, Om Prakash and S Singh at Asian Games 2018.(PTI)

What’s common between Sawarn Singh, Dattu Bhokanal, Om Prakash and Sukhmeet Singh?

That they won the Asian Games gold in men’s quadruple sculls rowing in Palembang is one. The second is, all of them are from the Indian Army. The third is, other than Bhokanal, none of them had any exposure to rowing before they joined the Services. The fourth is, all of them are from humble backgrounds and joined the Army to get a better life. The fifth is, they all picked up rowing because they found out that winning a national medal in sport meant a promotion.

And so began a journey from different parts of the country that met at the Pune Army Sports Institute and culminated in India’s second-ever Asian Games gold in rowing — the first was won by Bajrang Lal Takhar in 2010.

Till three years back, Sukhmeet’s only exposure to rowing was that Sarwan Singh, his friend from neighbouring village Dalelwala Mansa, was making India and Punjab proud by winning international medals, including a silver in the 2014 Incheon Asian Games.

This prompted 24-year-old Sukhmeet, who hails from Kishangarh Pharwahi village, to take the plunge — join the Army, pick up rowing and win medals to get promotion and make India proud.

READ: Asian Games 2018: The insider who plotted Indian women’s kabaddi team’s downfall

They did make India proud on Friday. The four armymen stood atop the Asian Games podium with the Tri-colour unfurling to the National Anthem.

“As we have just a small plot of land, a job was a must for us to get a decent living. I joined Punjab Police in 2007 and the next year, Sarwan joined the Indian Army,” said Sarwan’s elder brother, senior constable Lakhwinder Singh.

“Sarwan’s medals and the honour he got over the years because of his sporting success has motivated many youngsters in the surrounding villages to join the Army,” Lakhwinder added. “Sarwan was picked for the national camp after he won gold at the 2011 Ranchi National Games. There he met Bajrang Lal Takhar and his perspective towards rowing changed. Asian Games and Olympics gold became his dream,” said Lakhwinder.

Sukhmeet was introduced to rowing in 2016 and in one year he won the national title. “We have just four acres of land. So, both of my sons joined the army. Sukhmeet got a chance to pursue rowing and today he has made all of us proud,” said Amrik, Sukhmeet’s father.

Another rower from Punjab’s Thatthi Bhai village in Moga, Bhagwan Singh, won bronze in double sculls.

First Published: Aug 25, 2018 09:32 IST