CHENNAI: A little over a month ago, Indian Navy rower Satnam Singh started training for 2000m single sculls keeping the 40th Senior National Championship in mind. There were quite a few reasons but the most compelling one was the lack of partners for his pet event — coxless fours wherein he had won a silver medal in the 2019 nationals.
In the end, it turned out to be a good move as the 22-year-old from Punjab not only clinched his first gold in the nationals at the Army Rowing Node in Pune but also got the better of his more fancied rival, Olympian Arvind Singh. Interestingly, he was almost five seconds behind Arvind in the Inter-Services trials held a month ago finishing fourth. But Satnam clocked 7 minutes and 11.9 seconds in the nationals to finish on top of the podium.
Arvind from Services (7:13.8) and Karamjit from Army (7:15.4) finished second and third respectively. "I could not find partners to compete in coxless fours at the nationals. Then coach Ismail Baig and Rowing Federation of India president Rajlaxmi Singh Deo suggested the switch to single sculls," Satnam told this daily.
He along with Indian Navy coach Abhinav Bhatnagar started preparations at the Upper Lake in Bhopal once the decision was made. Such was Bhatnagar's confidence in his ward, he promised the RFI president a podium finish even before the event started.
"He is very sincere and hardworking. I always knew he can win a medal no matter how late he got into sculling. After the inter-services trials, the task was to reduce his timing which was around 7 minutes and 21 seconds then. Today, he cut almost 10 seconds from it to walk away with the gold," coach Bhatnagar said.
Satnam used to play handball and even competed in the nationals before taking up rowing. It was Olympian Swaran Singh, who initiated him into the sport given his tall frame. "I also hail from Mansa in Punjab. In 2017, Swaran Singh came to our village, Fatta Maluka and suggested the change. Like him, I always wanted to represent the country in the Olympics and rowing seemed to be the perfect way to do that," Satnam said.
He improved by leaps and bounds since then and was included in the national camp in 2018. He won a silver at the nationals the next year and was hired by the Indian Navy. "This gold will help me in finding a way to the Asian Games camp," added Satnam.
Coach Bhatnagar is confident Satnam will finish on the podium even at the Asiad as he did at the nationals. "We didn't have much time ahead of the nationals but for Asian Games, we have enough time. Given his dedication, he surely is a medal prospect at the quadrennial event scheduled in China later this year," signed off the coach.