Swati Sanjay steals the show

THE chirpy Swati Sanjay, could not have asked for anything better. For this youngster from Tamil Nadu it was a windfall.

HARRY DAVID

THE chirpy Swati Sanjay, could not have asked for anything better. For this youngster from Tamil Nadu it was a windfall. Three gold medals in the single scull, double sculls and sub-junior girls coxed four event in the sixth National sub-junior rowing championship held on the `sangam' of the Mula-Mutha rivers.

Swati Sanjay, who bagged three gold medals in the sub-junior championship.-

The sub-junior and eighth Open Sprint championship simultaneously organised by the Maharashtra Rowing Association (MRA) as part of its silver jubilee celebrations (June 20 to 22, 2003), provided an ideal competition for non- medal winners in the men's and women's open category. In the absence of leading rowers, who were confined to the coaching camp in Hyderabad, the non-medal winning scullers had a field day in the men's Open Challengers Class.

The championships formed part of `Operation Gold' campaign for the 2006 Asian Games to be held in Doha and the subsequent build up of Indian team. It was also used as a springboard for the future talent to build a strong base in this sport.

An all time record number of 285 participants and officials from 23 states turned up to kick start the silver jubilee programme of the Maharashtra Rowing Association, which has the privilege of not only holding the first Open Nationals but also the first junior Nationals, the first Masters Nationals and the first sub-junior Nationals.

Quite elated by the growing response from the state bodies for all the three categories — sub-junior boys and girls under-15, men's and women's Open and for the newly introduced Challengers Class for novices in the Open men's category, the RFI president, K. P. Singh Deo, said "considering the growing popularity of this sports, we can now earnestly look forward to building up our teams for the 2006 Asian Games and beyond.

While the formidable Services Sports Control Board (SSCB) team headed by seasoned campaigner R. K. Pillay, lived up to its reputation with Pillay winning, the single scull and the SSCB team winning two golds, a silver and a bronze, their traditional rivals the Corps of Engineering Sailing Association (CERA), scooped gold in the Coxless Four and silver medals in the Coxless pair and Open sculls. Andhra Pradesh scullers did exceedingly well to pocket a silver and two bronze medals.

It was in the Challengers Trophy for non-medal winners that the SSCB rowers were given a run for their money by others from the state teams. While Sepoy Abilash did not have much difficulty to claim the gold in the single scull, the Punjab double sculls team of Narsultan Singh and Indrajit Singh, won the gold. Overall SSCB finished with two gold and one silver, CERA Coxless pair, Prabhat Mishra and Sandeep Mishra, giving them the gold to make their day.

In the Open women's category the tall and sturdy young tribal girl, Sonali Gite, from Krida Prabhodini Rowing Club, Balewadi, prevented a clean sweep by Kerala by winning the gold in the single scull. Raji P. R. and Binu Mol claimed gold in the Open Coxless pair. A silver by Seema in the single scull and two bronze medals in the women double sculls and Open women's class, ensured their top place. The West Bengal Open women's Coxless four team won the gold medal.

The Tamil Nadu lass Swati Sanjay's gold rush however, left everyone else gasping for breath in the sub-junior girls section, where she ended in a blaze of glory helping her team win all the four golds at stake. The women's coxed four event — with no participation from any state — provided the icing on the cake for them. "We teamed just for a month prior to this championship", the bubbly team members comprising, Swati Sanjay, Preeti Buela, R. Sangamitra, Vasavi Sundaram, V. Sneha, Gauri Adappa of the TARA team enthused.

The championship on the eve of the final day's programme almost got washed out due to release of waters from the twin Panshet-Khadakwasla dam after a heavy downpour. The presence of mind shown by the security staff and the Royal Connaught Boat Club (RCBC) and the expert team from the Corps of Engineers Sailing Club (CERA) and Maharashtra Rowing Association (MRA) rescued the boats from the flood waters. The start of the finals, however, got delayed the next day by about three hours, before the organisers could lay new markers.

A major revelation of this meet was a revolution taking place, pri<147,1,7>marily among tribal children coming from the various belts of Maharashtra. The MRA women's team winning the single scull through Sonali Gite, the silver in the open coxless pair through, Yogita Jadhav and Vijaya Janan and silver in the sub-junior single scull (Idpachi) most of them belonging to the Krida Prabhodini Rowing Club, Balewadi. Arjuna Award winner Surendra Singh, with the help of CERA is bringing about a transformation among boys hailing from Army Public Schools in Pune.

The results:

Women Open: Single Scull: 1. Sonali Gite (Mah `A'), 2. Seema J. (Ker), 3. Rajeshwari (Chandigarh). Open Double Sculls: 1. Mamta Jena/Kabita Shanti (Orissa), 2. Kirandeer Kaur (Sr)/Kirandeer Kaur (Jr) (Chandi `A'), 3. Seema J/Remya V.S. (Ker).

Coxless Pair: 1. P.R. Raji/Binu Mol (Ker), 2. Yogita Jadhav/ Vijaya Zanan (Mah); Coxless Four: 1.Olivia Roy/ SayaSayana Dutta/ Sayantoni Pal Chaudhari/Reshmi Manna (WB), 2. Nirupama Jena/ Priyadarshani Rau/ Kabita Shanti/ Mamta Jena (Orissa), 3. P. R. Raji/ Seema J/ Remya V. S/Binu Mol (Ker).

Sub-junior girls: Single Scull: 1.Swati Sanjay (TARA `A'), 2. Surekha Idpachi (MRA `A'), 3. Ibemcha Devi (Manipur B).Doubles Sculls: 1. Swati Sanjay/Gauri Adappa (TARA ` A'), 2. Choabu Devi/ Ibenchu Devi (Man), 3. Aheli Banerjee/ Srimayee Banerjee (WBRA).

Coxless Pair: 1.Preeti Buela/R. Sangamitra (TARA), 2. Surekha Idpachi/Sayaii Butti (MRA), 3.Aheli Banerjee/ Srimayee Banerjee (WBRA). Coxed Four: 1.Vasavi Sundaram/V. Sneha/Swati Sanjay/Gauri Adappa -Cox R. Sangamitra (TARA).

Sub-junior boys: Single Scull: 1.Maninder Kumar (CRA), 2. Deepak Kumar Singh (MRA), 3.Manendir Singh (CERA `A'). Double Sculls: 1. Sanjiv Mandal/S.M. Qamaruddin (WBRA); 2. Nabubder Singh/ Barebder Singh (CERA `A').Coxless Pair: 1. D. Raminder Singh/M. Alexander (CERA), 2. Saneesh T. S./Ranju Rameshan (KRA), 3.Rahul Banerjee/Dilip Safi (WBRA `A'). Coxed Four: S. M. Qamaruddin/ Sanjeev Mandal/ Rahul Banerjee/ Ranjit Sarkar -Cox Mayank Gupta (WBRA `A'), 2. Raminder Singh/ M. Alexander/ Arun Joshi/ Tushar Kumar - Cox K. Shiva, 3. Vinod P. N./Ranju Rameshan/ Saneesh T.S./ Ilibin Joseph -Cox Ranjit M.

Men's Open: Single Scull: 1.R.K. Pillay (SSCB), 2. Spr. Manu K (CERA), 3. R. Sriram (TARA). Double Sculls: 1.Binoy Lukoes/ Bhaskar Reddy (SSCB), 2. S. Gurunath/ Parveen Kumar (CERA), 3. Amit Singh/ Govind Rao (APRA).Coxless Pair: 1.Nb Sub M. Rahman/ Spr Yosef R (SSCB); 2. Nb Sub Surendra Singh/ Spr Karnail Singh (CERA); 3. Subash K.K./ Shyju A (APRA). Coxless Four: 1.Spr Jarmanjeet Singh/ Spr S. Nair/ Spr Manjunathan/ Hav Udaybir Singh (CERA), 2. Subash K.K./Shyju A/ T. Vamshi Krishna/ Nobles S (APRA).

Men's Challenger Class: Single Scull: 1. Spr Abhilash (SSCB); 2. R. Sriram (TARA); 3. Jaison Joseph (APRA). Double Sculls: 1. Narsultan Singh/Indrajit Singh (CERA); 2. Amit Singh/Indranil Chaudhari (WBRA); 3. Jaison Joseph/T. Vamshi Krishna (APRA).

Coxless Pair: 1. Prabhat Mishra/Sandeep Mishra (CERA); 2. Kishan Singh/Gyanendrapal Singh (SSCB); 3. Krishna Singh/Sudesh Devidankar (MRA). Coxless Four: 1. Jaswinder Singh/Dharmendar Singh/ Amindeep Singh/ Bhupinder Singh (SSCB); 2. Rajiv Mallik/ Bajrang Lal/ Pradeep Kumar/ Ajay Kumar (DRA), 3. Shashi/ K. R. Singh/ Shivasundar Singh/ Harjinder Singh (WBRA).

OPERATION Gold is the slogan given by the Rowing Federation of India in its quest for medals in the 2006 Asian Games to be held in Doha (Qatar). The RFI president K. P. Singh Deo, is quite clear in his perception that India will fare better than what it did in the last Games as various measures are being undertaken to raise the level of Indian rowing standard.

The camp for the selected men and women rowers at Hyderabad, retention of the Romanian coach, introduction of Challenger nationals for non medal winning scullers, focussing on junior and sub-juniors during the last two years and spreading the base of the game far and wide, formed part of this long standing programme, Singh Deo clarified.

He further said that : "We are not thinking of the forthcoming Olympic Games at Athens next year." We spent the last 25 years on the senior team. They have now reached a plateau. We are now concentrating on the juniors. Retaining the Romanian coach, who had produced eight Olympic gold medal winners for his country, is part of the Operation Gold programme".

Operation Gold in the 2006 Asian Games is not the end, but just the beginning of the journey for building up a strong base from sub-junior and junior level in this `expensive sport' which from just seven affiliated bodies, including the formidable units from the armed forces, has spread far and wide and grown from strength to strength in recent years.

The RFI president pointed out that the simple fact that 285 competitors turned up from 23 affiliated units for the National sub-junior and Open Sprint Championship conducted by the Maharashtra Rowing Association, as part of its silver jubilee year programme in Pune, fully demonstrated the growing rowing culture among various parts of the country where water bodies existed.