Hyderabad: Ismail Baig has an incredible record as Indian coach. Under his stewardship India won 156 medals in various junior and senior international rowing meets. The experienced coach is all set to embark on his fourth Olympics when he will accompany Arjun Lal Jat and Arvind Singh, who will participate in the lightweight double sculls at the Tokyo Games.
“Though this is the fourth Olympics in appearance, I had prepared the Indian team for the 2000 and 2016 Olympics also. However, I could not travel with these two teams,” said the 55-year-old coach.
He was there with the Indian team in the 2004 (Athens), 2008 (Beijing) and 2012 (London) Olympics. Both in the 2000 (Sydney) and 2016 (Rio) Olympics, foreign coaches accompanied the team.
Saying this is a big challenge, Baig said Arjun and Arvind qualified for the Tokyo Olympics after a stiff competition in the Asian championship. “It was held in the same venue where this Olympics will be conducted. In a way, they have got a good knowledge of the conditions and course of the lake,” said Baig.
The Dronacharya awardee became a coach at a very young age of 26 years. “Though by accident I became a coach very early in my career, I gradually began to enjoy the job. I was fortunate to get support from the Rowing Federation and since then I have been involved with India’s participation in Asian Games, Asian Games and Olympics,” he said.
Baig has a high success rate like badminton coach Pullela Gopichand. “Coaching came naturally to me. It is all about passion and hard work. We had ups and downs but our success has mainly been in Asian meets where there is strong competition from Japan, Korea and China. But we have yet to break the barrier in the Olympics. It is one of the big challenges,” he said.
Having moved to Hyderabad in 2000, Baig always had a high opinion of Hussainsagar as the Rowing centre. “It is a natural lake and ideally situated for rowing. It has been a good hunting ground for the Indian rowers.”
However, the Indian team has been practicing at Army Rowing Node in Pune. This lake too has brought success for Indian rowers. At present they are training there. With strict Covid-19 protocols, Baig and his two rowers have been confined to the centre. “In a way, we are safe and both Arjun and Arvind are focused on the Olympics. They have been competing in this double scull event since 2019 and they have good chemistry. They won a silver in Asian Championship last year and this Olympics would be one of the biggest tests,” signed off Baig.