Arvind Singh and Arjun Lal Jat won India's first medal of the 2022 Hangzhou Asian Games with a silver in the men's lightweight double sculls. Babu Lal Yadav and Lekh Ram also won bronze in the men's pair final, while India's men's eight team stretched China all the way to the end before winning silver, taking India's tally in rowing up to three medals and five overall.
The men's lightweight double sculls race started with China's Fan Junjie and Sun Man taking an early lead, and by the 500m mark (of the 2000m race) they were well clear. Arvind and Arjun, starting on the outside lane kept pace well, and appeared to be catching up with the leaders around the 1000m (halfway) and had closed the lead to 1.80 seconds, with Uzbekistan and Japan right behind them.
In the second half of the race, Fan and Sun stepped on the power, pulling well clear to finish 5.02 seconds behind. India's chase, though, was highlighted by the fact that the Indians were 5.14 seconds ahead of Shakhzod Nurmatov and Sobirjon Safaroliyev of Uzbekistan.
Arvind later said the pair were aiming for gold but an injury setback two months back had hampered training. "We missed training for 20 to 25 days as I was having lower-back pain two months back. Otherwise, we would have won the gold medal. We will now work for the Paris Olympics and then try to win gold at the 2026 Asian Games," said Arvind.
His team-mate Arjun too said that they had the gold medal on their mind when they started the race.
"Gold was the target but we did our best. Our coach told us to just do our best. We could not do our (personal) best of 6:19, which we did at our Army nodal centre in Pune. We pushed hard and did our best today," said Arjun.
Arvind and Arjun have been in the forefront of Indian rowing for a few years now. At Tokyo 2020, the duo finished 11th ; India's best-ever finish in Olympics rowing. After taking a brief break post this, they had to split up after Arjun put on weight, and that meant the combined weight of the two didn't meet the doubles event's cut off.
At the Asian Championships in 2021 Arvind competed in singles sculls and won gold in his maiden attempt, while Arjun competed in double sculls with another army man Ravi. Arvind also won gold in the 2022 nationals, while Arjun-Ravi won silver in the double sculls. At the time Arvind toyed with the idea of taking up single sculls only at the Asiad, but a weight cut from Arjun meant the pair got back together and it's paid of handsomely with this silver.
The story of Arvind and Arjun's successful pairing started, incidentally at the 2018 Asian Games, where sitting on the bench as part of the reserve team, they became good friends. From then on, they set about forming an open partnership which, they say, involved constant communication and feedback.
Arjun comes from Nayabas in Rajasthan, while Arvind is from Khabra in Uttar Pradesh. Both of them grew up helping their parents tend to their modest farms, before both joined the Indian army. It was in the Service, that they both were introduced to the sport of rowing. Speaking to the press after their Olympic showing, Arvind said with a laugh, that while rowing is physically taxing the military training he underwent was far more stressful.
Men's pair bronze
Later, Babu Lal Yadav and Lekh Ram won bronze in the men's pair final, with a consistent performance for the duration of the race. The Indian pair got off to a great start and were third at the 500m mark, behind Hong Kong in second and Uzbekistan in first. The HK pair of San Tung Lam and Wai Chun Wong went past the the Uzbeks at the 1500m mark and went on to win gold, while Yadav-Ram remained third. A late surge from the Indians saw hopes of a silver come into view, but the Uzbek pair held firm to deny India.
Men's eight team silver
India's men's eight team of Neeraj (bow), Naresh Kalwaniya, Neetish Kumar, Charanjeet Singh, Jaswinder Singh, Bheem Singh, Punit Kumar, Ashish (stroke), and coxswain Dhananjay Uttam Pande won silver in the men's eight race, with China winning gold and Indonesia bronze. Starting in lane four, India were third at the end of the first 500m, 2.18 seconds behind the leaders, which went up to 2.35s at the 1km mark. India's push began at the midway point, overtaking Indonesia and 2.20s behind China at the 1500m mark, and gaining rapidly on the Chinese rowers. However, the eventual gold-winners responded with a late push, eventually winning by 2.84 seconds.