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Changing the face of rowing in Telangana

Hyderabad: “I hope this is just a beginning, it’s good for the growth of rowing in our country,” said a happy Ismail Baig, national coach after his 17-year-old disciple D Sai Raju’s won a bronze in the Asian Rowing Championship which concluded in Pattaya, Thailand on Friday.

For a country where rowing is not the most popular of sports, Sai’s achievement is an eye-opener of sorts. The 17-year old Sai under the tutelage of Ismail, who is also the State coach, has been doing the rounds in the national arena for some time. But the Visakhapatnam-born lad made a giant leap with a surprise gold at the Asian meet taking his game to another level.

Ismail though wants to take it slow and he has reasons to comply. “It takes time to sink in, that too when it’s by players who are under-18 years. He is still young and needs to better his performances and be more consistent,” he explained.

Sai is just one among many promising talented rowers from the State, according to the national coach. “We have Geetanjali Gurugubelli and Hemalatha Bedda who are coming up. They both are in the junior-category. Hemalatha is only 12 years old, but is a capable competitor in the junior section,” he continued.

The State now has stood out with its consistent and increasing contribution in the number of players to the national side over the past three years. The national side which took part in the Sub-Junior Asian championship earlier this year had four State rowers.

“In 2014, we started digging for talents. And we needed players who took it competitively. That’s when we came up with setting up a grassroots system and making them ready for the big stage,” the coach said.

Ismail and his crew of coaches started handpicking talents from the Telangana Sports School in Hakimpet. And soon results followed. Sai was one such talent, who belonged to the first batch.