A Kolkata teenager is sweeping the honours board in the West Bengal rowing circuit. Pratik Gupta, 19, has already earned a name by clinching gold in Men’s Single Sculls and Fours (Senior Category) at the West Bengal State Championship for four years on the trot.
The resident of Rajani Bhattacharya Lane in Kalighat is a first-year Bachelor of Management Studies student at St. Xavier’s College, Kolkata.
Pratik tells Edugraph his story of becoming a rowing champ.
Edugraph: How did you get into rowing?
Pratik Gupta: One of my school seniors spotted me playing basketball and thought I’d be a good fit for the school (South Point High School) rowing team. That’s how I took to rowing. I participated in the School Regatta, an Under-17 inter-school rowing competition in Kolkata in 2017 and won the competition by breaking the state record. There has been no looking back since.
How do you balance rowing and studies?
Pratik: It’s very hard to strike a balance. I can’t attend my classes regularly as I have to stay in national camps for months before a tournament. But I have devised a system that works for me: I study hard for a month or two before the exams and it has paid off so far.
Why do you think you’re so passionate about rowing?
Pratik: Rowing is my life and I can’t go without it even for a day. The first thing I do every morning after waking up is go to Bengal Rowing Club and row. This sport gives me a sense of fulfilment and peace that no other game has been able to offer me. When I am rowing, I find my own zone and feel like a free spirit.
What kind of a lifestyle do you follow as an athlete to reach your goals?
Pratik: It’s impossible to succeed at the highest level without self-belief and total dedication, which demands rigorous training and a strict diet. There is no alternative to practice, practice and more practice. Besides, I don’t take part in any activity that might distract my focus. This lifestyle has helped me improve my national and international rankings over the years.
What is your training schedule like?
Pratik: At first, I used to do only technical sessions twice a day. Gradually, I added weight training, running and other exercises to increase my endurance level. I currently have rowing sessions in the morning and evening -- either at Rabindra Sarobar or in the indoor rowing machine at the gym or my home —and weight training in the afternoon. I have an ergometer at home. I burn 6,000 calories a day.
How did you keep at it during the pandemic?
Pratik: The Bengal Rowing Club closed its gym and other sports facilities when the lockdown started in 2020. It was a big problem as I needed to keep myself in shape through regular workouts. So, I bought an indoor rowing machine, dumbbells, weights, barbells and other equipment to continue training at home. This helped me set a new Asian record at the 2,000m Indoor Rowing Singles at Asian Qualifiers for the World Championship on January 24, 2021.
What are some of the qualities a good rower must have?
Pratik: It’s important to fall in love with rowing in the first place. Otherwise, you can’t be a good rower. After that comes leadership, self-guidance, dedication and doing the same thing day after day. Irrespective of results, a true rower continues to follow a training schedule and the daily routine. You shouldn’t stop even if you lose — it’s actually the point to restart to succeed.
Which are some of the places in Kolkata to learn rowing?
Pratik: Kolkata has four rowing clubs — Calcutta Rowing Club, Bengal Rowing Club, University of Calcutta Rowing Club and Lake Club. All these clubs are situated on the premises of Rabindra Sarobar and offer rowing lessons. One essential precondition of being a rower is to be a good swimmer.
What advice do you have for those who want to take up rowing?
Pratik: Just like any other sports, rowing demands total dedication and there is no place for half-heartedness. It’s absolutely essential to give your all when you perform. Our efforts are never wasted even on a bad day; we’ll reap the rewards at some point or the other. We mustn’t rue missed opportunities as the next time is always there. No matter how hard it gets, the best thing is to move forward even if it’s painstakingly slow at times.
Your journey as a rower must be having its challenges as well.
Pratik: Of course, it has its fair share of ups and downs. But the thrill is in setting new goals and trying hard to reach them. I have set my sights on the next Olympics and other major championships. And I wouldn’t have been where I am today without my coach Sudip Naha.
What are your plans for the future?
Pratik: I have set my sights on the Asian Games 2022 and Paris Olympics 2024.
- 2 golds with an Asian record and silver in 2019 Asian Indoor Rowing Championship
- Asian record timing in singles Indoor Rowing in Men’s under-23 category at Asian Continental Qualifiers to the World Indoor Rowing Championship
- 4th at Asian Junior Rowing Championship 2019
- Participated in World Rowing Championship 2019
- Gold in Challengers Sprint Rowing Championship Nationals 2018
- Silver in Junior National Rowing Championship 2018
- 3 gold medals at the 77th ARAE - FEARA, 2018
- 3 silver medals at the 78th ARAE FEARA, 2019
- Gold in Open Men’s Single Sculls and Fours (Senior Category) in West Bengal State Championship 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021