2 silver, 1 bronze for the dark horses in rowing

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Eight girls from middleclass families are setting the water on fire; bidding for glory in the ‘elite’ sport of rowing that has so far been dominated by the urban rich.

Two of them are in college at Cuddalore and the rest of the team are students of two women’s colleges in Chennai.

Just eight months into training, that too only three days in a week, at ‘The Rowing Centre’ in Koovathur backwaters 78 km south of Chennai, these girls aged 19-22, on Sunday won two silver medals and one bronze at the All India Inter-University Rowing Championship held in the city.

“I never imagined I would get into this rich man’s sport and make a mark too. I am so thrilled”, said Angel Joseph of Ethiraj College.

“After taking up rowing, we found that our self-esteem has gone up. Our classmates treat us as specials”, added Sridevi of MOP Vaishnav College.

“Our very first competition was at the 70th Amateur Rowing Association of the East (ARAE) Regatta hosted by Calcutta Rowing Club in January and we won many medals,” said Suganya and Priyadarshini, who are from St Joseph’s College in Cuddalore.

Every Friday, these two women come to Chennai to join the rest for three-day intensive training at Koovathur. James Joseph, a silver medallist at the Asian Championship in 1989, trains the women.

A passionate rower Farid A Husain started the Centre along with Krishna Mohan and coach James to introduce the elite sport to women from the economically weaker sections.

“There are not many women rowers in Tamil Nadu. My daughter Fazila Husain was the only girl to represent the state at the nationals in Jharkhand last year.

That triggered my project. We spoke to the physical directors of various women’s colleges but only a handful responded. In the end, 20 girls took the selection tests and these eight were chosen”, Farid said.

“The Sports Development Authority of Tamil Nadu and CavinKare are sponsoring us. We need more funds as we must take care of the rowers’ accommodation, food and training.

Also, we hope to rope in more girls and train them in future and also hope they would represent the state and then our country at the Asian Games,” said Krishna Mohan, adding, “Gradually, we want to take the sport to rural Tamil Nadu. We are sure there are many champions-to-be out there”.

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