Asian Games 2018: Salvation for India scullers after day of disappointment -
Asian Games 2018: Salvation for India scullers after day of disappointment
Posted 25 Aug 2018 10:46 AM

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Between a foreign coach railing against Indian rowers lacking Popeye muscles and a governing body that reckoned India would sweep 7 golds at Jakarta (they had 0 in 2014 and 1 in 2010), there was a tiny squeaky voice of son, 4-year-old Bhavya, that gave rower Om Prakash Singh some focus and hope. Cutting through the clutter of the politicking and infighting and dissing by the mighty and powerful of Indian rowing — the coaches, administrators, funders and destiny-deciders — Bhavya would tell his father in a chirpy voice: “Koi baat nahi Papa, aaj nahi aaya medal, kal sabke saath aa jayega.”

And it did as Om Praskash – along with Sawarn Singh, Dattu Bhokanal, and Sukhmeet Singh — clocked 6:17.13 to win the gold medal in men’s quadruple sculls.

Thursday was traumatic for a host of top rowers in India. Om Prakash had failed to help his senior Swaran Singh push in the last deciding moments of their pairs event and missed out on what was a sure-medal. He was sinking under the weight of guilt when the armyman’s family would call from home. “My son doesn’t get to watch me on TV, but when I’m home, I play some of my old rowing videos on loop and build stories around them. Those are the stories he listen to and nods asleep, like bedtime tales. He loves those stories, and has started pointing to my medals and saying: Papa medal laayenge,” he said, moments after India finally won its first gold at Palembang. “Foujiyon ke dimaag mein bas yehi chalta hai – competition aur family & bachhe. Mushkil hoti hai yeh life,” he added.
Unwell’ rower and clueless coach mean Indian challenge sinks without trace

India’s elite rowers have not taken a holiday for the last 9 months, or visited home. At the end of one of the toughest training stints where the Romanian coach demanded commitment in training sessions on the water for over 6 hours a day, India drew a blank on Day 1. Like Om Prakash, or much more, Olympians Dattu Bhokanal and Swaran Singh Virk were under the pump. On Friday, they would get another chance. Together. It had to be a gold.

Dattu had struggled to drag himself out of the exhaustion after 1200m, Swaran had failed to draw that last ounce of energy which would have given him a bronze, and Om Prakash blamed himself for failing his senior. Sukhmeet Singh, the fourth on the boat, controlling the boat, like a driver, felt the pain too even as coach Gioga launched into the rowers and the country demanded results at the Asiad – which determines their funding over the next few years.
“Bahot zyada dabaav tha sab pe. But coaches Ismael Baig and others had supported us. So we decided, we will go for that gold,” Om Prakash recalls. It was sheer release from the strains of the previous day and the despondency of losing that pushed the quadruple after the 1500m mark on Friday as India brought home gold in 6:17:13.

The man from Jhunjhnu in Rajasthan whose brother also serves in the army at Pathankot, said the last few months have been trying. “I just wanted to be there to support our Olympians. They had to win gold and make up for yesterday. Dattu hadn’t spoken about his loss yesterday though he was hurting. He wanted to keep our morale high,” he’d say, adding that sometimes there’s strength in silence for the brotherhood from the army.

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