KARACHI: The atmosphere inside the Habib Public School auditorium was electric. Nearly 180 students from 16 schools across the city were rowing for gold at the inter-school Indoor Rowing Championship 2011 over the weekend.
The participants were being cheered on by their friends and family, as they grounded their feet firmly on the paddles in front and started to pull on rods attached to the Ergo Metre Machine that substitute as oars. Nervous parents and eager coaches had their eyes glued to the rowing arena that had been set up in the auditorium. They occasionally glanced towards the scoreboards to check on the distance, time and score. The results were calculated from a total of 40 races that had taken place on Saturday and Sunday between 11 am and 6 pm. Karachi Grammar School (KGS) came first in the under-12, under-14 and under-18 categories while The Lyceum School topped the under-20 category and Habib Public School won the under-16 category.
Baseball? Cricket? No, let’s go rowing
The Karachi Boat Club (KBC) rowing committee coach Arif Ikram said that rowing was not just a fun activity anymore. “Both forms of rowing ie indoor and on water teach discipline, leadership and teamwork,” he said. “I started inter-school rowing championship in 2004 with one school and 14 students now we have more than 300 participants every year, including 200 regular rowers.” He added that the sport had developed, most schools had their own rowing society and coaches.
“It is a relatively new sport, not like basketball, football or netball,” said the KGS rowing team vice-captain Alizeh Amer. “Rowing is much more fun though because it requires a complete and coordinated team effort.”
According to Ikram, rowing, like swimming and skiing was a sport for which the participant need high endurance. “Students need to be trained mentally, physically, psychologically and nutritionally,” he said. “It is essential for rowers to eat a lot of protein, fat and carbohydrates.”
Aaron Hsieh, the caption of the Nixor College rowing team who has several international medals under his belt, said that nutrition was the key to success. “Your everyday normal diet should include three glasses of milk, two to three eggs, cereal and lots of carbohydrates,” he said. “I avoid junk food and fizzy drinks.”
Mohammad Faizan and Azeem Adamjee were representing the Institute of Business Administration said that it was important to keep exercising. “The fitter and heavier you are, the better,” they said. “If indoor rowing machines are not available, then the rowers should do push-ups, jumping, squats and the circuit routines designed to target key muscles.”
Pakistan Rowing Federation member Manal Kamran, 16, said that she did sprints, crunches and circuits to keep fit. She added that all the exercise and training usually gave Pakistani women a leg up on their international competitors.
Also present was Mahar Dil Babai, who moved to Karachi from Baluchistan to be part of the rowing clubs in Karachi. He won the National Youth Award for Sports and has won several international medals too.
The rowing team from Abdullah Rakla Campus of The Citizens Foundation schools, said that they did not have much time to practice for the competition as they were busy with exams and Eidul Azha. However, they ended up winning a few gold and bronze medals.
According to another KBC rowing committee member, Aisha Sheikh, there was immense talent and potential in young Pakistani rowers. She added that the rowing committee had also helped students find and apply for scholarships and international opportunities. Coach Ikram pitched in to add the example of one girl who had gone to the University of Notre Dame on a rowing scholarship.
The rowing machines
Ikram went into the nitty gritty of the indoor and outdoor rowing mechanism. He said that it was a very expensive sport, as one Ergo metre machine cost nearly Rs0.2 million, the carbon fiber single man boat cost nearly Rs0.4 million and the four man boats cost Rs1.8 million. He added that the KBC subsidised the cost for students and schools for Rs400 per month.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 14th, 2011.