Clean sweep by SSCB men and Kerala women

SANJAY RAJAN

SHE is possibly the queen of rowing in the country today, and surely whatever she touches turns gold.

All the winners (from left): Kneeling: R. Sobini, Julee Varghese, Soniyamma Mathew, Malini Baroi and J. Seema. Sitting: Jincymol Varghese, Jesbir Singh (SSCB coach), G. S. Nair (Kerala coach), Surinder Singh and Rampal Singh. Standing: R. K. Pillai, Udhaybir Singh, Balwant Singh, Surinder Singh, Dinesh Thakur and Narender Singh.-N. BALAJI

Jincymol Varghese, the 24-year-old Kerala international, underlined her claim as the best in the business, winning the single sculls and the double sculls (in the company of Malini Baroi) titles in the 22nd Open National rowing championship which was held in Chennai.

As expected, Kerala also won the coxless pair and coxed fours crowns to effect a complete sweep in the women's section, a feat accomplished by Services Sports Control Board (SSCB) in the men's, putting it across the other Army outfit, Corps of Engineers (CERA), in all the four finals. SSCB's star was the 32-year-old international R. K. Pillai, who won the single and double (along with Narender Singh) sculls events.

It was Jincy's sixth straight National single sculls title, putting it across 16-year-old Divya Chadha of West Bengal in the final. Divya put up a fight, but the experienced Jincy, who has a strong finish, drew away from the halfway mark.

"It's a 800m course, not the regular 2000m. Hence timings are of no real importance. I was conserving energy for the following race," said Jincy, an Asian championship bronze medallist.

The Kerala girls, all from Sports Authority of India (SAI) Watersports Centre, were superior to the rest. Coach G.S. Nair put it down to dedication and hardwork: "We do a lot of endurance training. The waterways are undoubtedly a boon to us.

"For this meet especially, we did a lot of resistance training, what in rowing parlance is known as water-break exercises, by tying a line of tin cans to the boat which in turn produce resistance. This is because the water in the Adyar river is hard and there is not much depth."

Nair described Jincymol as "talented, good listener, tireless worker and a splendid teammate." Jincy, who hails from Chempumpuram, was spotted in 1995 and roped in by the SAI Special Games Scheme. Competitive rowing seemed a natural progression for this soft-spoken lass, who, as a youngster, used to paddle rafts in the backwaters. Thereafter the sport became an obsession.

Pillai's initiation into the sport was in 1989-90 at the MEG Watermanship Training. It was his third gold each in single and double sculls events in 10 Open Nationals. The highpoint of his career is the double sculls gold he won along with Binoy Lukose in the Hong Kong International regatta in 1998.

It appears that the Rowing Federation of India has ambitious plans. Speaking to the press after the annual general body meeting on the final day, Mr. K. P. Singh Deo, unanimously re-elected President for another term, said that the experienced Nicolae Vulpe, the former Romanian Olympian, will help in the Indian squad's preparations for the 2002 Asian Games. "It has been cleared by the government."

The RFI has set aside Rs. 10 lakhs to assist needy clubs with equipment, especially oars of good quality. The emphasis is to be on juniors. The RFI also intends to have a one-day seminar-cum-workshop on doping in May, an awareness programme so to say, for rowers and coaches. A three-man committee is also to be instituted for talent-spotting.

In the inaugural indoor championship (2000m on an ergometer), Balwant Singh and Rampal Singh won the men's heavyweight (above 72.5 kg) and lightweight (below 72.5 kg) titles respectively while R. Sobini (heavyweight; above 59 kg) and Julee Varghese (lightweight; below 59 kg) triumphed in the women's section to further extend SSCB's and Kerala's domination in the sport.

The results:

Men - Single sculls: Final: R. K. Pillai (SSCB) bt Satheesh Kumar (CERA) 2:31.12 to 2:32.47. Third place: Bhaskar Reddy (Karnataka) bt Jaspal Singh (Chandigarh) 2:31.19 to 2:58.68.

Double sculls: Final: SSCB (R. K. Pillai & Narender Singh) bt CERA (P. Rajnesh & T. S. Biswal) 2:24.28 to 2:26.12. Third place: Karnataka (Binoy Lukose & Sunil Kumar) bt Tamil Nadu (Harsha & Sriram) 2:31.98 to 2:38.01.

Coxless pair: Final: SSCB (Surender Singh & Rampal Singh) bt CERA (Pappi Singh & Binu Kurian) 2:26.89 to 2:27.56. Third place: Chandigarh (Dalip Kumar & Tajinder Singh) bt Kerala (Arun T. Paul & Elbison Thampi) 2:34.62 to 2:41.93.

Coxed fours: Final: SSCB (Surinder Singh, Balwant Singh, Udhaybir Singh, Rampal Singh, coxed by Dinesh Thakur) bt CERA (Binu Kurian, S. Chandran, Baldev Singh, Pappi Singh, coxed by N. Sandeep) 2:17.81 to 2:20.14. Third place: Chandigarh (Dalip Kumar, Bupender Singh, Sukhbir Singh, Tajinder, coxed by Vipan Kamboj) bt Karnataka (Raghuveer Singh, Binoy Lukose, Johnson, Sanjay Yadav, coxed by Moulali) 2:23.85 to 2:27.35.

Women - Single sculls: Final: Jincymol Varghese (Kerala) bt Divya Chadha (WB) 3:15.51 to 3:23.99. Third place: Saroj Bala (Punjab) bt Supriya Gaekwad (Maharashtra) 3:13.51 to 3:18.22.

Double sculls: Final: Kerala (Malini Baroi & Jincymol Varghese) bt Orissa (Monalisa Mohanty & Prabasini Dwivedy) 2:54.47 to 2:58.83. Third place: Andamans (Manjula Rai & Suchitra Rani Mondal) bt Chandigarh (Kirandeep Kaur & Mira Devi) 2:58.82 to 3:22.21.

Coxless pair: Final: Kerala (Julee Varghese & R. Sobini) bt Orissa (Malabika Das & Monalisa Mohanty) 2:55.30 to 2:58.65. Third place: Andamans (Suchitra Rani Mondal & Manjula Rai) bt Maharashtra (J. Yogita & Z. Vijaya) 3:04.22 to 3:08.16.

Coxed fours: Final: Kerala (Malini Baroi, Soniyamma Mathew, Julee Varghese, R. Sobini, coxed by J. Seema) bt Orissa (Mamata Jena, Nirupama Jena, Bhagyabati Mallik, Malabika Das, coxed by Sagarika) 2:45.18 to 2:52.41. Third place: Chandigarh (Kirandeep Kaur, Ranjana Kumari, Mira Devi, Renuka Sarkar, coxed by Manjula) bt Tamil Nadu (Lekhamitra, Urvashi, Mayura, Urmila, coxed by Megha) 2:57.25 to 3:03.40.