CHENNAI: "My Aim Asian Games 2022 Gold Medal" reads Indian rower Arvind Singh's WhatsApp DP (display picture). But that goal is set to change with Arvind qualifying for the Olympics in the men's lightweight double sculls event on Friday. He, along with Arjun Lal Jat, finished second in the final of the Asia and Oceania Olympic and Paralympic Qualification Regatta held in Tokyo, Japan to make the cut.
Three quotas were up for grabs with Japanese rowers finishing first with a timing of 6:34.70. The Indian duo clocked 6:36.92 while a team from Uzbekistan finished third.
"Asiad gold is still my aim, but now the priority is Olympics. We will work hard to ensure that we give our best in the Games," the 25-year-old Arvind told The New Indian Express from Tokyo. Both Arvind and Arjun are Naib Subedar with the Indian Army.
The similarity doesn't end here. They are sons of farmers and started rowing only after joining the army.
Arvind hails from Bulandshahr, Uttar Pradesh while Arjun is from Nayabas village in Jaipur, Rajasthan.
"I joined the army in 2016. I once went for a rowing event and decided to become a rower after watching participants in action," said Arvind.
Arjun's story is a bit different as he was handpicked by Bajrang Lal Takhar, India's first rowing gold medallist in the Asian Games.
"I am with Rajputana Rifles regiment in Delhi. After joining in 2015, I decided to pursue rowing and Bajrang sir was impressed with me and picked me for the Delhi team," said 24-year-old Arjun.
The duo first met in 2017 and started training together the next year at the Army Sports Institute in Pune. The camaraderie, which developed over the next three years, helped them to counter odds to seal an Olympic spot.
"We trust and understand each other. This gives us the courage to overcome all difficulties. It was difficult as we all were put under strict restrictions in Tokyo due to the pandemic. We were both confined to separate rooms but were in constant touch over the phone. The understanding we developed over the years meant we didn't need to interact in person every time," said the duo.
Jakar Khan was India's best bet in the event but the qualification norms meant he could not make an Olympic cut despite clearing the qualifying criteria. Jakar finished fourth in the single sculls final where five spots were on offer.
As per qualification norms, only one quota was available for a participating nation. As per rules, Jakar could have earned a quota if he had finished first and the double sculls rowers had also finished on top.
"Jakar also qualified but we are allowed only one entry. As double sculls rowers finished second and Jakhar ended fourth, the former will go for Olympics," said Rajlaxmi Singh Deo, president of the Rowing Federation of India.
There is another qualifier scheduled in Italy but India will not be participating in it.
"With raging Covid and ban on international flights, we are not planning to compete there. It's not possible this time," Deo signed off.