| New Delhi: Set for their fourth Olympics in a row, the Indian rowers face a tough test but would look to show that they do not just make up the numbers in the London Games beginning July 27.
India have qualified two boats with up to three rowers. The strapping 23-year-old Punjab boy, Swarn Singh Virk qualified in the men`s single sculls (M1X), while Manjeet Singh and Sandeep Kumar made the cut in the lightweight men`s double sculls (LM2X) after staving off stiff competition in the Asian Olympic qualifiers at Chung Ju, Korea in April.
In a blow to Indian hopes, 2010 Asian Games gold medallist Bajrang Lal Takhar failed to qualify for London in men`s single sculls, losing out to Virk in the qualifiers.
The rowers said they were ready for a "tough test" against some of the best in the world but would not give themselves realistic chances of winning medals in London.
London will be Manjeet`s second appearance in the Olympics, having rowed in the same event at the 2008 Beijing Games. This is the fourth time in a row Indian rowers have qualified for Olympics.
"We are very proud that for the fourth time Indian rowers have qualified for the Olympics. The rowers are training really hard in Hyderabad and I am sure that India will make its presence felt at the Games," said M V Sriram. secretary-general of the Rowing Federation of India.
The Indians, who will continue to train at the Hussain Sagar Lake in Hyderabad till their departure for London on July 17, know that there was a huge gap between them and the traditional rowing powerhouses from Europe and North America.
Rowing competitions at the London Olympics are scheduled to be held from July 28 to August 4 at Eton Dorney Rowing Centre at Dorney Lake near Windsor Castle. 14 medal events will be contested by 550 athletes, 353 men and 197 women.
India`s single sculls entrant, Virk won an Olympic trial at the Hussain Sagar Lake against seasoned Armyman and Beijing Olympian Bajrang Lal Takhar.
Typhoid put paid to Bajrang`s hopes of qualifying for the Olympics for the second time as he turned up for the trials earlier this year weak and recovering from an illness.
Virk topped the qualification in Korea after beating the Chinese and Iranian opponents. He clinched an Olympic berth in only his fifth international race.
"He has done well in the races so far and notching strokes on par with international averages. He is young and possesses immense potential," national coach Ismail Baig told PTI.
Baig, a Dronacharya awardee, toiled hard with the rowers but he remained realistic about India`s chances at the Games.
"We would look to better our Beijing Olympics record but winning a medal, it`s still a distant dream. The field comprises of some big names in rowing world and we are not looking at medals. The trio should enjoy the game," he said.
The women rowers came close to qualifying for London Games but could not make the cut in the qualifiers in Korea.
First Published: Saturday, July 07, 2012, 12:30