As Covid-19 began rearing its head once more in India in the course of April, worldwide journey for the nation’s athletes grew to become uncertain. The case of rowers was no completely different.
However their go to to the Asia and Oceania Olympic and Paralympic Qualification Regatta lastly occurred and turned out to be a profitable one — because of Indian Military’s Naib Subedars Arjun and Arvind who completed second within the ultimate to ebook a ticket to the Video games.
In addition to the double sculls duo, Jakar Khan too completed within the qualifying bracket (prime 5) within the single scull ultimate. Khan completed fourth, however as per the qualification guidelines, every taking part nation within the occasion was provided one Olympic quota, which then went to Arjun and Arvind in India’s case.
However be it on the lodge or on the match venue, the Tokyo Bay, one factor that dominated each rower’s thoughts was “kahin [Covid] guidelines comply with karne mei koi galti na ho jai [hope we don’t make a mistake in following the Covid rules].”
“Earlier than we left [for Tokyo], the coach [Ismail Baig] was saying journey has change into robust, so do not know if we will go or not. It wasn’t confirmed,” mentioned Arjun, who hails from the Nayabas village in Jaipur, whereas speaking to Timesofindia.com
(Arjun and Arvind completed second, behind Japan, within the males’s double sculls ultimate)
“There have been quite a lot of guidelines we needed to comply with. Even when one among us examined optimistic, the entire staff would have needed to return [withdraw]. Indiscipline [not following Covid protocol] might additionally result in suspension,” Arjun added.
Loaded with these apprehensions, the staff launched into the journey. After touchdown in Tokyo, it took the squad 5 hours earlier than they might transfer out of the airport.
“It took us round 5 hours to clear immigration on the airport after we reached Japan,” mentioned the 25-year-old Arvind, who’s from Bulandshahr in Uttar Pradesh. “There have been a number of checkpoints due to [Covid] testing and different security measures. It was robust.”
However the staff’s duty had solely begun at that stage. On the lodge, whereas in separate rooms, they might transfer out just for meals, any emergency or once they needed to go to the competitors venue. Every taking part athlete’s location and motion was tracked by the authorities.
“Like we’ve got the Aarogya Setu app [in India], there are two apps that we’ve got to obtain earlier than leaving the airport in Japan. Then, each day, we needed to mail the authorities and inform them we’re okay or if we had any signs. Between 10 am to 2 pm day by day, we needed to ship that replace by mail,” Arvind instructed TimesofIndia.com.
On the lodge, moreover staying of their rooms for more often than not, there have been strict eating guidelines throughout meal timings, which had been additionally fastened.
(Rowers Arvind, Arjun and Jakar carrying coach Ismail Baig on their shoulders on the Tokyo Bay)
“We got time-slots to eat. We needed to eat inside these 30 minutes. We could not speak whereas consuming. As quickly as you end, it’s important to put the masks again on. Solely a specific variety of athletes might eat in a single time-slot. The tables had been marked with nation names,” Arvind mentioned, giving a peek into what could possibly be in retailer for athletes on the Olympics scheduled to run from July 23 to August 8.
In such a state of affairs, the coach needed to carry out the twin function of a coach-cum-monitor and remind the athletes about Covid-appropriate behaviour.
“If we did something unsuitable, he [coach Baig] would inform us what we will do and what we will not to not threat getting suspended,” mentioned Arjun.
However as soon as within the water, the Indian rowers confirmed their prowess, with hosts Japan, Indonesia, Hong Kong and Uzbekistan as their primary rivals. Hong Kong had overwhelmed India by 1.5 seconds on the Asian Championships in South Korea.
“It was robust, however [coach] Ismail saab instructed us – ‘You might be my finest doubles sculls staff. In my 30 years of teaching, you two are my finest staff.’ In order quickly as we entered the water, we had been decided to point out our onerous work of the final eight months. That is the mindset we raced with,” Arjun recalled whereas speaking to TimesofIndia.com.
Arvind, in the meantime, recalled how the coach instructed them to not give significance to the timings within the Heats [qualifying rounds].
“Throughout our qualifying Heats, not one of the prime groups put of their 100 p.c [in order to conserve energy for the final]. So the coach mentioned do not have a look at the timings.
“My associate and I had full belief in one another, as we had practised so onerous for this. We had been assured about qualifying,” mentioned Arvind.
(Indian rowers with coach Ismail Baig in Tokyo)
Each Arjun and Arvind come from farmer households and took up the game solely after becoming a member of the Indian Military. Arvind was recruited in 2016, whereas Arjun, who was scouted by Asian Video games gold medallist Bajrang Lal Takhar, joined the Indian Military in 2015.
Coaching collectively since 2017, Arjun and Arvind at the moment are gearing up for the following preparatory camp.
“With God’s grace, all went nicely [during the Tokyo trip],” mentioned Arjun.
And Arvind added: “We gave our 100 p.c regardless of restrictions because of [state of] emergency [in Tokyo]. I believe will probably be an analogous [atmosphere] on the Olympics.”