Few Olympic Sports have flown, or rather floated under the radar in India, as much as rowing. With no real substantial achievements to show in terms of podium finishes at the Olympics, and with awareness for the sport being low, it is no real wonder that our rowers have never really been given the credit they deserve. However, the trend is changing with the country sending in nine athletes over the past five Olympic Games.
To put that in perspective, ZERO rowers represented the nation in the 104-year-old history of the Olympic Games till that point. This improvement and the phenomenal work put in by the Army Rowing Node at the College of Military Engineering in Pune has resulted in the sport being on an upward curve in the country. And these are the five men who have been at the forefront of this rise towards prominence. Presenting, in no particular order, the five greatest Indian rowers of all time.
Dattu Baban Bhokanal
India’s sole rowing representative at the Rio Olympic Games, Dattu Bhokanal’s is a story that would inspire any aspiring sportsperson in this country. Hailing from the drought-hit village of Talegaon, near Nashik in Maharashtra, Bhokanal became the sole bread winner of his family at a tender age, after the death of his father.
This tragedy forced the young man to join the Armed Forces, and it is there that he took up the sport of rowing. Interestingly, Bhokanal had to overcome an acute fear of water when he first tried the sculls. However, he soon mastered the sport and has had to never look back from his Army Rowing Node days.
The 25-year-old who’ll compete in the Men’s Singles Sculls category at Rio, qualified for the Games by winning silver at the FISA Asian and Oceania Olympic Qualification Regatta at Chung Ju in South Korea. As a result, he has become only the ninth ever Indian to qualify for the biggest stage of them all.