“This gold medal will motivate youth in the state to pursue the sport and take their mind away from things like drugs,” said Punjab rower Sawarn Singh who was part of the four-member Indian team to win men’s Quadruple Sculls event in Asian Games in Indonesia on Friday.
As Punjab rowers Sawarn and Sukhmeet Singh, along with Dattu Bhokanal and Om Prakash, crossed the finish line in the men’s Quadruple Sculls event on Friday, to win second gold medal for India in the rowing history of the Asian Games, the two villages in Mansa district, from where they hail, followed it with bated breath.
Earlier in the day, another Punjab rower Bhagwan Singh from Thatthi Bhai village in Moga had partnered with Rohit Kumar to win bronze medal in the men’s lightweight Double Sculls event. All the three rowers had joined Indian Army through the respective induction programmes in the Punjab villages and are part of the Army Rowing Node, Pune.
“When I joined the Indian Army in 2008 through a recruitment rally in Raipur, Chattisgarh, I did not know a single thing about rowing. We had learnt swimming in the village ponds, but later I was selected in the 10 Sikh regiment rowing team. Competing in 2012 Olympics and winning the bronze medal in 2014 Asian Games made my villagers realise the importance of rowing, but this gold medal is special. I was suffering from a back injury and typhoid before the games. My only request to the Punjab government is that they should also motivate those who have not won medals and give cash prizes,” said Sawarn of Dalelwala village.
While Sawarn joined the Indian Army in 2008, it also meant that the Singh family in Dalelwal village would manage the 10-acre farm on their own. Sawarn’s elder brother Lakhwinder Singh too joined Punjab Police two years later. With Sawarn winning the bronze medal in last edition of Asian Games, some villagers too showed interest in rowing.
“When Sawarn joined the army, it was to support the family. Later when he started rowing, he would often tell us about the sport, but we did not understand anything. But when he won the bronze medal in Asian Game in 2014, a lot of youngsters asked him about rowing and later they trained at Ropar. This is our biggest reward,” shared Sawarn’s father Gurmukh Singh.
Sawarn’s teammate in Friday’s final Sukhmeet from Kishangarh Pharmahi in the district too joined the Indian Army’s Bengal Engineer Group regiment in 2014. The 24-year-old rower’s tryst with rowing began when a teammate wrote his name in the list of soldiers interested in rowing despite his reluctance. Sukhmeet won the silver medal in double sculls in last year’s national at Pune and was selected in the Quadruple Sculls team six months earlier.
“After I called my parents, I called my teammate Nirmal Singh today (Friday). It was due to him that I was chosen for rowing. Initially, I hated rowing, but when we started winning, it made me and my family happy. This medal will be the biggest gift for my parents. My father Amrik Singh owns two acres of land in our village and I and my brother would work in the farm initially. My mother Kulwinder Kaur was interested in our studies. This medal will be like a degree for her,” shared Sukhmeet.