CHENNAI: When he joined the Indian Army in December 2018, Ajay Tyagi didn't even know that a sport named rowing existed. Given his tall frame, he stands at 6 feet 2 inches, Ajay was selected for rowing six months after joining the army. Strangely, he didn't even know how to swim then. In the next few months, he not only learnt swimming but also picked up the basics of rowing.
In less than three years, Ajay proved his mettle with boat and oars as he finished on the top of the podium on his nationals debut. The 21-year-old rower along with his partner Arwinder Singh clinched lightweight men's double sculls gold at the 39th Senior National Rowing and 23rd Open Sprints Championships in the Army Rowing Node (ARN), which concluded in Pune on Saturday.
"As I didn't know how to swim, I was afraid of water. Initially, the boat used to flip a lot as I couldn't balance it. It was not easy but with time I acquired the skills needed to swim and row," Ajay, who hails from Sara village of Modinagar tehsil (Uttar Pradesh), told this daily.
Ajay was into long-distance running before being recruited by the Indian Army. He now wishes to represent the country in international events. "The nationals success has boosted my confidence. Arvind (Singh) sir, who represented the country in the Tokyo Olympics and coaches are helping me in ironing out my flaws. I will now head to my village before resuming the training at ARN after a fortnight," he added.
Ajay and Arwinder clocked 7:0.4 seconds to finish first. Ashish Phugat and Sukhjinder Singh claimed the silver with the timing of 7:09.5 seconds while Jaspreet Singh and Bhagwan Singh clocked 7:23.4 seconds to pocket bronze.
Ajay started training at the ARN only last year. The one-year stint fetched him nationals gold. He hopes training at the centre ahead of the big events like the Asian Games will help him prepare better.
"ARN is equipped with all facilities. Chief coach Ismail Baig and coach Bajrang Lal Takhar work tirelessly with rowers there. I am confident I can improve a lot in the next few months under their guidance and convince selectors to find a place in the national team for the 2022 Asian Games," signed off Ajay.