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His dream of shaping a women's Olympic Rowing team in 2021 has sparked a million claps.

ismail baig

Do you know India is progressively leaving its mark not only on traditional games but also on obscure sports like rowing? When Indian rowers returned from the 2008 Asian Games en route to Jakarta with three medals (1 gold, two bronze), many speculations circulated former foreign mentor Nicolae Gioga. In the aftermath of the Romanians' departure, the Rowing Federation of India (RFI) decided not to bring any international mentors. Meanwhile, national coach Ismail Baig has been tasked with overseeing the seniors. The Indian rowers won a gold, two silvers, and two bronze medals in the Asian Rowing Championships at Cheongju (South Korea) in 2020 under the mentorship of this Dronacharya Awardee.

Under this 54-year-old mentor, India had received upwards of 156 global decorations, including two gold medals at the Asian Games since 1999 when he assumed his position as Indian mentor. A 26-year-old Baig unintentionally turned into a mentor at Hussain Sagar Lake in Hyderabad, where he has trained numerous Asian and Asiad medalists for nearly 20 years.

Catching a wave

Following his expedition, Ismail served in the Indian military and, since military members needed to participate in sports, he was proficient at boxing. However, he did not find much interest in the game, so when the rowing mentor in Bengaluru suggested Ismail take up the game, he jumped at the chance. Since there were no offices in Bengaluru at the time, Ismail shipped off to Pune in 1987, and after thoroughly experiencing the game, I became enamoured with rowing. His debut at a national championship came in 1989 when he won a bronze medal in the Coxed Four division. However, two years later, in 1991, Ismail upgraded the bronze to gold. In an ironic turn of events, when he finished his playing career at the 1991 nationals, he enrolled in a NIS training school, and at 26, he began mentoring.

As a young, inexperienced rower new to the sport, he showed great determination to succeed as well as prove himself.

Cut the mustard…

In Bengaluru, Ismail was responsible for preparing the state group. There, he found Shortfall amenities and faulty oars. Nevertheless, his skills and experience contributed to Karnataka winning the gold in Chandigarh in 1992 over enormous groups. In his words, "Our method and preparation were effective, which led us to bring decorated trophies to every public competition in which our group took part." Russian Broadcasting International chose Ukrainian Dmitri to mentor the Indian public group ahead of the Asian Games in 1998. Dimitri followed Ismail closely and asked him to become an associate mentor. In becoming part of the Indian group, Ismail took his first step as a mentor and adviser. In 1999, Ismail got appointed as the principal mentor following the Asian Games in Bangkok in 1998. As a free mentor, Ismail made his first trip to Asia to assist the Asian Championship in Japan, where he earned medals of silver and one medal of bronze.

Oversaw like dronacharya…

Following Japan's withdrawal from the Asian Championship, the rowers qualified for the Sydney Olympics without precedent in history since they finished second in the coxless pair. The Indian camp made a similar move from Pune to Hyderabad. Ismail beams with joy and says,

As the Indian group's mentor in all the Olympics, our group has participated in.

Under Ismail's stewardship, it flourished. At the 2006 Asian Games in Doha, Qatar, India secured a silver medal as Bajrang Lal Takhar won silver (single sculls). This record was surpassed in 2010 when the team won gold, three silver, and one bronze. In addition, there were massive award-winning performances held in 2014 and 2018 by Sawarn Singh, Dattu Baban Bhokanal, Om Prakash, Sukhmeet Singh, who were wholly prepared by Ismail.

Moulding a women's sports squad for the Olympics...

The man on a mission is Ismail Baig. He is closer to his dream of an Indian women's group in the Olympics, with the 2021 Tokyo Olympics upcoming shortly. According to Baig, the women rowers will meet all Olympic requirements if they keep on persevering with the game with dedication. Furthermore, he mentions that Telangana's rowers have carved out a niche for themselves with their efforts. An Indian camp will be directed for the three-day Youth Olympics the following year and the Asian Championship. Camp has been extremely challenging since it began. He said," Our rowers can book the Youth Olympics amount if they win the World title or Asian Championship." It is worth mentioning that each country has only two categories and reserved for ladies. The camp currently has 19 young men and 14 young women preparing.

Despite Ismail's confidence in the men's team's ability to qualify for the Olympics, his ultimate dream is to have a ladies' team that will make history the first-ever women's group to make it to the Olympics. However, the progress the young ladies are making is pleasing to him. Providing they stay focused on the game, they can indeed qualify. The first women's rowing team for the Olympics has already shown signs of success.

Kudos to future rowers…

Ismail started shaping a few rowers who were under 10 to 11 years old three years earlier. His current focus is on creating results. Sairaju won the global silver medal in the pair rowing category and won gold in the nationals. He added, “ It is pleasing to see our rowers achieving decent results and competing globally”. Hats of to the hardship of this mentor, whose accomplishments are far from exceptional.

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dronacharya ismailrowingwomens 2021 olympic teamIsmail BaigIndian rowersAsian Rowing ChampionshipsIndian mentorSawarn SinghDattu BabanOm PrakashSukhmeet Singh