Seven city girls rowed through the choppy waters of Sukhna Lake to sweep up of seven gold and two silver medals — their all-time best performance —last Saturday.
The Jadavpur University (JU) team won gold in all four events it participated at the Inter University Rowing Championship in Chandigarh.
The three other gold medals were bagged by city girl Shreya Ramalingam Iyer, who is pursuing a distance-learning programme at Punjab University, Chandigarh. Vanshika Tantia and Mahima Dey of St Xavier’s College bagged two silvers, representing Calcutta University.
The JU girls, who have been practising together at the Dhakuria Lake for years, attributed their dream run to mutual understanding and experience.
The tournament had begun on a rather disappointing note for the JU girls — trying conditions and unsatisfactory performance in the heats.
“The weather this time was very bad. It was extremely cold and windy. On some days, it rained. The races on February 28 had to be cancelled because of inclement weather. It was difficult to keep the boat in the right lane. We struggled initially but won our events, winning races back to back,” said Shramana Saha, a second-year English honours student at JU.
With Shramana was Shweta Brahmachari, a student of international relations, her elder sister Shreya and Semanti Chaudhuri.
The team members strike a pose with the medals they brought home from Chandigarh Picture by Gautam Bose
The JU team found itself in trouble when it lost to Punjab University, Chandigarh, in the first race of the 500m fours, which meant they had to win back-to-back races in the repechage — a contest in which the best-placed of those who fail to win the heats compete — to qualify for the final, which they managed to do. Revenge was sweet as they were pitted against Punjab University in the final.
The city girls lost the first race in the 2,000m fours, too, but were able to beat Kurukshetra University in the final, again coming through the losers’ plate.
“The women rowers of Bengal have been doing well in the nationals and the inter-university tournaments. But the seven-gold haul this time was their best performance. It’s the dedication of the girls over the years that is bringing them results,” said Gautam Valechha, the coach of the Jadavpur University and Bengal rowing teams.
The girls begin practice at the Lake around 5.30am every day and carry on till around 9.30am. The practice session is followed by classes at college or university and back again for a two-hour session before heading home.
There’s no compromising with studies though. Some of the girls said they go to bed by 9.30pm and wake up around 2am to study. Others take a quick nap after reaching home around 8.30pm, then study for a few hours before going to sleep again.
“All our friends are from the rowing circuit because no one else understands our schedule,” Shramana said.
The girls who have been together for nine to 12 years agreed that their co-ordination helped them negotiate the winds in the 2,000m fours final race in the recent tournament.