Incheon: India picked up two bronze medals from the Asian Games rowing arena here on Thursday as army man Swaran Singh Virk rowed his way through exhaustion to the third spot in single sculls before the men's squad added the eights title.
As the rowing events ended at the ChungjuTangeum Lake International Rowing Centre, India's modest tally of medals stood at three bronze, the first one having been won yesterday by army man Dushyant Chauhan in men's lightweight single sculls.
The performance was lower in both quality as well as quantity to the 2010 tally of 1 gold medal, 3 silver and 1 bronze.
Sikh Regiment's Naik Subedar Swaran Singh must be complimented for putting up a brave effort. The timing he clocked here to win the bronze covering the 2000m distance (7 minutes, 10.65 seconds), was better than his performance at the London Olympic Games two years ago timing wise (7:29.66).
But the extra effort the 24-year-old former volleyball player put in towards the end when he tried to ward off the challenge from South Korean rival Kim Dongyong, who secured the silver, saw him collapse due to exhaustion. He fell off the boat into the water, and had to be taken out by the rescue team to the ambulance.
"He should be fine. It was just exhaustion which happens to rowers at times. It was a brave effort as he was struck with severe back pain over the last three to six months and we had to work really hard to get him back into shape," said Rowing Federation of India secretary general M V Sriram.
Swaran Singh, who is 1.89 metres tall and weighs 88 kg, led the field of six rowers for the first 1 km of the race and was comfortably headed towards the silver, after being overtaken by Iranian gold medallist Mohsen Shadinaghadeh, who clocked 7:05:66.
But it was Korean rower Dongyong, who eventually took the second place in 7:06.17.
Punjab-born Swaran Singh, who had clocked a slower 7:31.88 when he won the gold in the 2013 Asian Championship in China, had come through the repechage to be in the medal race.
"I tried very hard and was even leading but lost the silver over the last 200 metres. I am happy with the medal but cannot say I am thrilled. I feel I would have done better had I not lost some training time due to the back problem I picked up a few months ago and could not train properly," said Swaran who trains at Hyderabad.
Later the men picked up the eights team bronze by securing the third position behind gold medal winners China and Japan who crossed the finish line in 1:27.96 and 1:30.39 respectively.
The Indian team of Kapil Sharma, Ranjit Singh, 2010 single sculls gold medal winner Bajrang Lal Takhar, P U Robin, K Sawan Kumar, Mohammad Azad, Maninder Singh, Davinder Singh and Mohammed Ahmed started sluggishly to be trailing in fourth at the halfway stage before making the extra effort to clinch the bronze.
Bajrang Lal, the lone Indian gold medal winner in Asiad history, later said that he was pleased to win a bronze after the team was in 4th position.
"I feel very happy," he said.
However, there was disappointment elsewhere as the women's quadruple sculls foursome of Amanjot Kaur, Sanjukta Dung Dung, N Lakshmi Devi and Navneet Kaur finished eighth overall, clocking a poor 7:10.55, well behind 7th placed Thailand (7:01.18).
The gold was won by China while Hong Kong and Indonesia picked up the silver and bronze medals.
In the men's double sculls, Indian pair Om Prakash and Dattu Baban Bhokanlal finished fifth in the finals, after crossing the 2000m race in 6:37.01.
The Indians trailed the six-pair and took the second position initially and were in bronze contention at the 1500m mark before they were overtaken by the Iranian duo S Shojaei-Amir Rahnamalronaghi, the bronze winners, and fourth-placed Korean twosome Kim Hwingwan-Choi Dosub.
China's duo Zhang Liang-Dai Jun grabbed the gold while Chinese Taipei's Wang Ming Hui-Yu Tsung Wei got the silver.
The top performer of the day was Swaran who has shown steady progress in his event, having grabbed the gold in the last Asian Championship after finishing third in 2011 in Slovakia.
Even in world championships, Swaran who took up rowing only five years ago - had improved from the 17th-place finish in 2011 to 12th last year in this country.
This was the second day in succession that rowing had provided India with a bronze.
Yesterday Dushyant Chauhan picked up the bronze in men's lightweight single sculls.
Four years ago Bajrang Lal Takhar won India's maiden gold medal in the Asian Games in Guangzhou and the men rowers snapped up two more silver while the women a surprise bronze.
Sriram, speaking after Swaran's performance, said though he was slightly disappointed, the rowers had fought tooth and nail.
"Our rowers tried their best, fought hard, but the competition was fierce. We were well prepared having trained specifically for the Asian Games which is our main focus."
He also felt with better facilities at home, Indian rowers can achieve better results.
"I am very happy with the medals won here despite the lack of facilities in our country. The facility here is world class and Korea has 5-6 such facility. China has 50. We don't have many. Rowing is a sport where better equipment is needed to provide better results," he said.
India came here with a rowing contingent made up of 22 men and 9 women, plus four coaches and a physio.
But in some events eight people are required to row in a boat like men's coxed 8s and in some others four - like in quadruple sculls.