Indian rowers prepare for Olympic qualifiers in May

The rowers have been training at the Army Rowing Node in Pune under the guidance of chief national coach and Dronacharya Ismail Baig.

Chief national coach Ismail Baig (centre) with the Indian towers training in Pune for the Olympic qualifiers next month in Tokyo.   -  SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

Training at the Army Rowing Node in Pune ahead of the Asian and Oceania Continental Olympic qualifying championship in Tokyo from May 5 to 7, the Indian contingent is optimistic that the event will be on track despite the second wave of the pandemic wreaking havoc.

With Delhi under lockdown, there is anxiety about the visa process being completed on time even as the rowers are training under the guidance of chief national coach and Dronacharya Ismail Baig.

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The rowers have been preparing since October 2020 in the man-made Rowing Channel — the only one in India that meets international standards — and since then, the Tokyo qualifying event was seen as the last one to win the ticket to Olympics, though there is another one scheduled in Lucerne (Switzerland) from May 16 to 18.

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“It is the Asian meet from which the Indians made it to the last few Olympics and Switzerland event is not on our radar for many reasons.

“We are going ahead with the preparations in a secured bio-bubble, assuming that the qualifiers will be on as per schedule. There is no word yet officially either about it being postponed or cancelled,” Baig told Sportstar on Tuesday.

Rajlaxmi Singh Deo, president of the Rowing Federation of India, said the Japanese embassy have been helpful. “They have agreed to accept the visa applications directly as a special case but due to the lockdown there is a problem in submitting the documents.”

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The qualifiers will be the first competition for Indian rowers after last year's Asian meet.

With Dattu Bhokanal and Sawarn Singh not in action, the Indian hopes will hinge on a relatively inexperienced men’s squad of Jakar Khan (single sculls) who won a silver in the Asian meet last year, Arjun Lal Jat (double sculls), Arvind Singh (single sculls), Sunil Attri (single and double sculls) and Shantanu Kumar (para).

In Bhopal, the women’s team comprising Khushpreet Kaur (single sculls), Vindhya Sankat (double sculls), Rukmani Dangi (double sculls) and Sona Keer (single and double sculls) is being trained by 1990 Asiad medallist and Arjuna Awardee Dalvir Singh for the Tokyo qualifiers.

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