Rowing is a game played by a few and is probably watched by a few in India. Just like many other sports in India, we only cheer for them when they bring medals in big events like the Olympics or Commonwealth Games. However, there is always someone who makes you fall in love with some sport and bring revolutionary changes to that sport's popularity. Pratik Gupta wants to be that guy for Rowing in India. Pratik, who recently got the tag of being Asia's No.1 shared his story in an exclusive interview with Sportz Point.
Just like Neeraj Chopra, a household name now, a 120-kg kid named Pratik took sports just to get fit and accepted by society. Pratik was in class 7 or 8 when he took up sports to get fitter and slimmer. Interestingly, in a very quick time, he was about 60 kg. And, now, he wanted to build up muscle and started working out in the gym.
Since then Pratik Gupta has won nearly 15 medals at various national and international rowing championships. Pratik won his first medal at the School Regatta, a U-17 inter-school tournament in Kolkata and broke the state record to win the competition in 2017.
Participating in the World Rowing Championship 2019 was one of the highlights of his career as he was the only second-rower from Bengal ever to compete in a singles competition. In addition, he also has the Asian record timing in singles Indoor Rowing in Men's under-23 category at Asian Continental Qualifiers to the World Indoor Rowing Championship.
But, all these successes still are not enough for Pratik to have a proper sponsor like other athletes of any game would have. Rowing is an expensive game and Pratik knows it. He also knows that for him to get all the support, he needs to make rowing big.
"Look, I know it is tough. The associations have their own limited budgets and it is an expensive game. But, I am sure if I can make rowing big, at least in Kolkata, the next generation of rowers will not have to fight like me," Pratik Gupta said.
"Only three clubs participate in the state championship. But, I feel Bengal has the capacity to create more good rowers and that is why I feel Rowing needs a centralized exposure, he added."
The 20-year-old rower from Kolkata participates in 2000 mt races but the lake in Kolkata is only about 900 mt. log. So, to train for the 2000 mt race, he needs to make a turn and practice hard to be ready for the National championships.
"Things like these do not bother me. I just put in more gym work and strength work for that. As simple as this. It was a hard sport. Sometimes you just want to give up. But, it is the challenge that excites me to keep going and working hard," Pratik Gupta added.
"In rowing, you can not stop. So, it is all about dedication. You will see me every day at the Rabindra Sarobar Lake with my boat. It does not matter if it is raining or a sunny day at the lake."
Pratik believes all of his fighting spirit and athleticism come from his family, especially his father. His father is a former national-level boxer. In fact, according to Pratik, it is his father's genes that help him being a supernatural athlete. But, it has never been all about genes until you make it your strength, and Pratik knows it. Along with his father and family, Sudip Naha, his coach has been a constant support throughout his journey
On a general day at training, Pratik burns nearly about 6000 calories. That's thrice a normal man in India burns in a whole day. "We do mileage training for a 30-km at a go. So, that means we have to row for 2-3 hours continuously," Pratik added.
But, all of those training comes in handy beating senior and prominent athletes at National level tournaments, just like the recently held Men's National Indoor Rowing Championship 2022. Pratik created history by becoming the youngest to win a Gold medal in the Men's National Indoor Rowing Championship. He won 2 Gold medals beating the medal contenders from Services in the Men's Singles and Men's Fours events.
Pratik now does not want to stop. He is aiming for Paris Olympics in 2024. But, before that, he wants to test himself in the Senior Men's National Rowing Championship, coming in January, next year.
"Last year I missed the Nationals due to Covid. I had trained for six months for the championship but could not participate as I got Covid before the tournament. As I am planning to go outside the country to train on my own, I need one gold in the senior championship to make myself feel that I am good enough for the highest level."