| Chandigarh |
Updated: September 21, 2020 3:14:58 am
As rower Manjeet Singh (31) reached his village Isa Panjgrain in Ferozepur for the first time after winning the Dhyan Chand award last month, the two-time Olympian and Asian Games medal winner was greeted by his father Mukhtiar Singh, young rowers from the village, and some of his teammates.
Manjeet, who was one of the recipients of the Dhyan Chand award in last month’s national sports awards function and as one of the nine rowers, who have represented India in Olympics till now, sees the award as a recognition for the sport and not only himself.
“I am glad that I was chosen for the award and I see it as recognition of the rowing community all over India and not only myself. Whatever I could achieve in my international career and national career, it was because of my coaches and fellow players in Chandigarh, where I trained, and in Punjab and Indian team camps. Getting the national award will also motivate me further to help rowing grow in Punjab as well Chandigarh and I will be glad if I could do that in whatever role I can in future,” shared Singh.
While Manjeet was always fascinated by sports during his childhood, the Punjab native decided to shift to Chandigarh in 2004 to opt for rowing and started training under rowing coach Arvind Sehgal at the Lake Club Sports Complex. The same year, Manjeet was part of the Chandigarh rowing team which won the silver medal in the coxless four event in the National Junior Rowing Championship at Ranchi. The following years would see Manjeet being part of Indian team which won the silver medal each in coxless pair and coxless four events in the Asian Junior Rowing Championship at Singapore in 2006, a feat which propelled him into the Indian senior team.
In 2006, Manjeet was part of the gold medal winning Indian lightweight four coxless team in South Asian Games and in 2007, Manjeet was in the Indian team which won two medals in Asian Championships.
Later, Manjeet along with Devender Kumar bagged the 2008 Olympics quota with a second-place finish in the lightweight scull event in the Olympic qualifiers in South Korea before the pair finished 18th in Beijing Olympics the same year. Apart from being a double medallist of 2010 Asian Games, Manjeet also competed in his second Olympics at London in 2012, where he and Sandeep Kumar finished second last.
“While growing up in my village, I always had an interest in sports. In 2004, I decided to train at Chandigarh and coach Arvind Sehgal and other coaches made sure that I got the best facilities to train. In 2005, I finished fifth in Asian Junior Championships but it motivated me to win a medal next year. The two medals won in Singapore meant that I could impress national coach Ismail Baig and the journey for the Indian senior team has been a memorable one. Even though, we finished 18th in Beijing and second last in London, competing in Olympics was a career high for me. I got the support of coach Ismail Baig and my teammate Bajrang Lal Thakar and others throughout my career and they had an important role to play in my success,” says Manjeet, who is a Subedar in the Army.
While recent years have seen Punjab having a rowing training centre at Ropar, there is still a dearth of rowing training facilities in the region. At Chandigarh, where Manjeet trained, the rowing course has been reduced. The two-time Olympian believes that with Punjab rowers like Sawaran Singh, Sukhmeet Smagh and Bhagwan Singh, all of whom won medals in 2018 Asian Games, the region can act as a conveyor belt for Indian rowing teams.
“In India, we have good rowing centres in Hyderabad and Pune and in north India, Punjab has got a rowing centre at Ropar. The training facility in Chandigarh has been suffering in terms of international standards as the course length has been reduced to less than two kms and it needs to be upgraded. Reservoirs of barrages at Hussainiwala and other barrages in Punjab can be ideal places for rowing centres in region. In England and other European countries, there are many training courses and the race between Oxford and Cambridge University rowing teams is seen all over the world. We need players opting for rowing at a young age and it will help the sport,” said Manjeet.
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