New Delhi [India], May 13 (ANI): Arjun Lal Jat and Arvind Singh were blissfully unaware of the Olympic Games till 2016, let alone weaving dreams around it. But last week the Indian duo won a silver medal at the Asia and Oceania Olympic and Paralympic continental qualification regatta to make the cut for the Tokyo Olympics.
"We never gave it much thought (Tokyo Olympics)," Arjun told Olympics.com. "But we have been training for it since October 2020 and just wanted to give a good account of ourselves."During the qualification event at the Sea Forest Waterway on Tokyo Bay, Arvind and Arjun were the only Indians in a 14-member squad to secure their berth for Tokyo 2020. Competing in the lightweight double sculls, the pair covered the distance of 2000m in 6:36.92 and crossed the finish line 2.22 seconds behind the Japanese team of Naoki Furuta and Mitsuo Nishimura.
Arjun and Arvind were the reserves at the 2018 Asian Games, when the team of Rohit Kumar and Bhagwan Singh clinched bronze in the lightweight double sculls for India. Their success has been silent, almost undocumented in this age of information overload.
A year later, the duo was the first choice when the team travelled to Chungju, South Korea for the Asian Championships. They won a silver as India raked in a haul of five medals after finishing with one medal in the previous two editions.
"We used to be scared of them (the bigger teams in rowing) and think, 'By how many leagues will they beat us?'" says Arvind. "But we won a silver medal in South Korea, so that kind of helped with the confidence."While Arjun hails from Nayabas village in Rajasthan, Arvind is from a small village of Khabra in Uttar Pradesh. But both of them grew up helping their parents tend to their modest farms. Like a lot of youngsters from rural India, both joined the Army as a means of job security. Both of them were introduced to rowing during their time there.
"To be honest, I didn't know much about the sport before I joined the Army," says 24-year-old Arvind, who finished his mandatory training in April 2016. "Back in the village people used to play a little bit of cricket or participate in some athletic events but that was it. After my Army training, I joined the rowing camp and slowly started getting interested in sport.""I had absolutely no interest in the sport before I joined the Army," says Arjun, 25, who was introduced to rowing by former Indian Olympian Bajrang Lal, who is also from Rajasthan. "In 2016 when I started rowing, that's when I heard that rowers go to the Olympics."Rowing consists of leagues upon leagues of monotonous movement, which can be hypnotic if you look closely. You need strong legs and arms and big heart, literally, to power through. "Yes, there were times in the beginning when I used to get very tired," says Arjun. "But I knew I had to keep doing it."It was in 2017 that Arjun and Arvind decided to join forces. Both of them weighed around 72.5 kgs, which is the maximum an individual rower can weigh in the lightweight double sculls category. But the team average cannot exceed 70kgs.
"Since we were both around 72.5, we realized it wouldn't take too much effort to drop those extra 2-3 kgs. That's how we started rowing together in the event."The Asian qualifying event took place at the same venue that will host the rowing event at the Tokyo Olympics. But with the world still coping with the pandemic, there was no fanfare or excitement. "We would go from the club to the hotel and back," said Arjun.
On May 18 they will be back in training at the Army Sports Institute in Pune, working on their newly-acquired dream. (ANI)