First time in the history of the event, a group of Kashmiri youths will participate in Kerala’s Nehru Trophy boat race, which would be held in Punnamada Lake in Alappuzha on 12 August. The Kashmiri rowers from Srinagar have already reached Kumarakom and Alappuzha and begun practising for the mega event.
The youths are from Nehru Park Water Sports Centre at the Dal Lake. Thirty of them have joined the Town Boat Club of Kumarakom, which owns the Karichal Chundan team, and 28 of them have joined the Devas Chundan team of Jesus Club of Alappuzha. They are said to be dragon boat rowers who have participated in national championships.
“We met the Kashmiris during the dragon boat race in Assam in April this year. We invited them for the Nehru Boat Race and they agreed,“ Kumarakom Town Boat Club's trainer Sunil Kumar told Times of India.
The Kashmiri men have excelled in dragon boat races over the years and are the favourites to win the cup this time. They had defeated the ‘Indian Navy’ in the National Dragon Boat Race Championship, organised by the Jammu and Kashmir State Sports Council under the auspices of Indian Kayaking and Canoeing Association a couple of years ago, Deccan Chronicle reports.
Most of them know canoeing and kayaking and have been rowing shikhara boats in the Dal Lake.
Since the Nehru Trophy rules allow only 25 percent of the total team strength to be from outside the state, the maximum Kashmiris a team can include would be around 20.
Sunil Kumar further said he was surprised to see the dedication and discipline of the paddlers from Kashmir. “Snake-boats were new to them, so were the region, climate and language. But they got accustomed to everything soon. The dedication they show has been amazing,” Kumar was quoted saying.
Rich boat clubs used to get rowers from other states for Nehru Trophy, but this is the first time that a group from a particular state is participating.
“We have been enjoying every moment of our stay here and would love to return next year as well,” Bilal said.
Rowers from the Army and the Steel Authority of India have earlier participated in the prestigious competition.