Bajrang Lal takhar – India
1. How long have you been rowing?
I started in 2001 in Hyderbad. I was interested in rowing so went to my local club to have a go and fell in love with the sport. I was selected for the Indian team in 2004 when I became National Champion. In 2005 I won one gold and two bronze at the Asian Championships in Hyderbad. In 2008 I qualified for the Beijing Olympics where I made it to the quarter final in the mens single. I am 3 x Asian Champion in 2007, 2009 and 2011. I won the first ever gold medal for India at the Asian games in 2010.
2. How old are you? How tall are you and how heavy?
I am 31 years old. I am 184cm tall and weigh 80 kg.
3. What are your aims for the Asian Olympic Qualification Regatta here in Chungju?
Personally I want to qualify for London 2012 and for the whole Indian team to produce their best performance to date.
4. What do you hope to do at the Olympics in London?
I would like to get to the semi finals in this year’s Olympics.
5. Who is your sculling hero?
Mahe Drysdale – I have been following him for a long time and really admire his technique and determination to win.
6. What is your best position at the world championships?
Finishing 18th in 2009 in Poznan, Poland is my best world championship performance to date.
7. Will you continue after London 2012?
Yes I hope to get to the Brazil Olympics if I’m not too old!
8. Do you have a family?
Yes I’ve been married for eight years and have two baby boys aged 5 and 3. My family really supports me and my rowing and watches every race on the TV.
9. What do you think of the course and camp in South Korea?
I was here in 2007 and the course then was good but now with all the improvements it has become excellent. The new start pontoons, clean water, prevailing tail wind, marker points and buoys all help make it a really good place to row.
10. How do you find the food here?
It is very different from the food I am used to and some of the dishes I really like. I am more used to it than the first time in 2007.
11. Is rowing in India growing?
Since the last Asian Olympic Qualification regatta in 2008 our team has grown and is going faster than ever before. Ismail Baig has been our chief coach since 1998 and his hard work has built the team to what it is today.
12. Have you been rewarded for your amazing performances?
I received the best player award in 2008 from the President for my performances on the water.
13. In the Indian team do you have to work?
Yes we all work. I am a Junior commissioner officer (JCO) in the army. I joined the army in April 2000. The army allows me to row full time and provides my salary. Most of the Indian rowers are in the army but some are students or in the police.
14. What do you like to do in your free time?
I like to watch films and listen to music – my favorites are Rajistani songs and Shima Mishra is my favorite artist.
15. Why are you so successful? What factors played a part in your success and how did you become Asia’s number 1?
At my first Asian championships I won a bronze medal and my coach was very confident I would win gold in the future. So I trained hard and won silver the following year in Doha. My coach was then certain I could win gold at the Asian games. The fact my coach and the federation were had so much confidence in me meant that I was able trust them and come to believe it myself. So I now I eat, sleep and dream rowing.
16. What is a typical year of training like?
We train 2 sessions a day every day except Sunday and we get 1-2 months off each year. Training takes place early morning and late evening to avoid the worst heat of the day.
17. What are facilities like at your training centre?
We row on Lake Hussain Sagar which is 2km long in Hyderabad. We have lots of boats and around 60 people on the team from juniors through U23 to seniors.
18. How many people row in India?
I think around 2000 people row in the clubs around India.
After 2000 we have seen big improvements in Indian rowing because the Indian Rowing Federation has made many steps to promote and support the sport.
19. What’s your message for all the Asian countries competing here in Chungju?
I wish all the Asian rowers the best of luck and encourage them to keep working hard so that we can begin to beat the rest of the world and win those Olympic gold medals!