All you need to know about India's journey in rowing at the Olympics

India's first representation in rowing was at the 2000 Sydney Olympics
India's first representation in rowing was at the 2000 Sydney Olympics

Two Indian rowers, Arjun Jat and Arvind Singh, qualified for the 2021 Tokyo Olympics in the men’s lightweight double sculls event a few days back.

The duo made the cut by securing a silver medal at the 2021 FISA Asia & Oceania Olympic Qualification Regatta in Tokyo, Japan. They also became the 10th and 11th rowers from India to have ever qualified for the Olympics.

However, the history of rowing at the Games as a discipline dates back much earlier.

Rowing first came to the scene as a mode of transport in ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome. However, it was in Britain that rowing was introduced as a sport in the 18th century, with the Oxford-Cambridge university boat race inaugurated in 1828. But, by the 19th century, rowing was popular in Europe and also made inroads to America.

Rowing at the Olympics

Even though rowing was supposed to be part of the first modern Olympics in 1896, in Athens, it was eventually canceled due to bad weather. However, it was inducted in the 1900 Paris Olympics and since then has been a part of every edition, making it one of the oldest disciplines at the Games.

However, the number of events increased gradually as the years rolled on, starting from four categories – Single Sculls, Coxed Pairs, Coxed Four and Eight during the 1900 edition.

It was during the 1976 Montreal Games that women featured in rowing for the first time, with the edition featuring 14 events, including eight men’s events and six for the eves. The 2020 Tokyo Olympics will also see 14 gold medals on offer, with equal weightage to men’s and women’s events.

Britain’s Steve Regrave is the most successful rower in the history of the Olympics, having won six medals across five editions, out of which five were gold medals. The athlete has won at least one gold medal in each of the five Olympics he’s been part of.

Romania’s Elisabeta Lipa tops the chart in the women's section, having claimed five top honors across six Olympics, with a total tally of eight medals.

India’s history in rowing

Like many other disciplines, it was the British that introduced rowing in the Indian subcontinent, with the Calcutta Rowing Club founded in 1858. Soon, other establishments thrived across India, including the Madras Boat Club (1867), Royal Connaught Boat Club (1868, in Pune) and Karachi Boat Club (1923).

Also Read : Poll reveals nearly 60 percent of Japanese citizens want Tokyo Olympics canceled

However, it was only in 1973, that ten active members from the rowing clubs in Calcutta and Madras felt the urge for national and international status for the sport in India, thus paving the way for the formation of the Rowing Federation of India on August 30, 1976.

Following which, the organization has been influential in popularizing the sport in India and producing international players.

India's journey at the Olympics

It was during the 2000 Sydney Olympics that India made its first appearance in Rowing, with the duo of Kasam Khan and Inderpal Singh qualifying in the Men’s coxless pair event. But the outing was not fruitful, as they finished bottom in the Heat as well as in the Repechage.

Dattu Baban Bhokanal, who was the lone entrant from India at the 2016 Rio Olympics, has come closest to a podium finish, with him finishing in 13th position overall in the men’s single sculls.

India's Dattu Baban Bhokanal in action during the 2016 Rio Olympics
India's Dattu Baban Bhokanal in action during the 2016 Rio Olympics

The 2008 Beijing Olympics and 2012 London Olympics saw three rowers each from India qualify for the mega-event, the strongest ever contingent from the country. India had representation in the singles sculls and the lightweight double sculls in both the editions.

Here is the list of Indian sailors that featured at the Summer Olympics till now:

2000 Sydney Games - Kasam Khan and Inderpal Singh (Men’s coxless pair) - Did not advance to the semifinals.

2004 Athens Games - Paulose Pandari Kunnel (Single sculls) - finished at the 27th position.

2008 Beijing Games - Bajranglal Takhar (Single sculls) - finished in 21st position. Devender Kumar Khandwal and Manjeet Singh (Lightweight double sculls) - finished in 18th position.

2012 London Games - Sawarn Singh (Single sculls) - finished in 16th position. Sandeep Kumar and Manjeet Singh (Lightweight double sculls) - finished in 19th position.

2016 Rio Games - Dattu Baban Bhokanal (Single sculls) - finished in 13th position.

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Edited by Rohit Mishra
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