CHENNAI: Like any other youngster from Chennai, Rohith Lakshman Maradapa too was bemused by cricket. He even worked with the BCCI’s IPL audit team during his college days.
For some, this may be a dream come true. But Rohith had different ideas. “Cricket definitely has better scope financially, but money isn’t everything. There is something called passion that drives you forward. For me, it’s rowing,” said the 21-year-old at the sidelines of the 19th sub-junior and first inter-state challenger sprint national rowing championship held at the Ramachandra Medical College on Saturday.
Being the son of Balaji Maradapa, a former rower for the Tamil Nadu team, he did not have to search much for a role model. His first ever rowing experience was in 2006.
“I was eleven and was in Kodaikanal with my father. We were at the boating and rowing club, and he asked me if I wanted to give it a try. Then and there, I became very much interested, and have been participating in national-level events since 2007.”
For any athlete, to represent the country is a great honour. Rohith too had the opportunity to do so at the 16th Asian Rowing Championships in Beijing, where he won silver in the men’s 8+ event. “That was the most exhilarating race of my life till date,” he said when asked about the championship.
“As you can see, I have a small frame. To make it to the national team, I had to compete with tall and extremely fit athletes. I took that as a challenge. The Tamil Nadu Amateur Rowing Association (TARA) and my coaches kept pushing me. With the help of Chacko Kandathil, president of TARA, and other coaches, I was able to make improvements.”
Rohith who has been a coxswain took a year off from studies to train. Normally, coxswains are light weight and wouldn’t have done much rowing. But that was not the case with Rohith. “I used to row and hence know what goes on and I feel for the athlete. Being the youngest in the national team, I was a bit nervous. But rowing is a team effort and you respect each others’ abilities. I had a great connect with my entire crew. We had a blend of new and old blood. We were there for four months and we got a lot of time to gel. The chemistry is very important,” said the Chennai lad.
Being one among the hardest endurance sport in the world, rowing training regimes entail extreme rigor. “We used to train for 4-5 hours per day. We have nutritionists and physiotherapist to help us stretch and relax muscles. Bio-mechanical analysis, including VO2 tests, cholesterol and iron levels checks, are performed so that you don’t get fatigued. For all that the Rowing Federation of India, the state government and support staff have been incredible.”