Rower Balraj Panwar chases his dream from Haryana to Paris 2024

Balraj Panwar (Image: Olympics)

Balraj Panwar, hailing from the village of Kaimla in Haryana, has always been drawn to sports, but his journey into rowing began unexpectedly. “I joined the Indian Army in 2018 and was introduced to rowing there,” he said at a media interaction organised by the Sports Authority of India in conjunction with the Indian Olympic Association and the Rowing Federation of India on Thursday. “There are a lot of games (sports) in the Army, and when I joined, a rowing competition was going on. I participated and immediately got interested.” This newfound passion quickly transformed into a career, setting him on a path that would eventually lead to the Olympics.

Preparing for Paris: From Novice to Olympian

Despite being relatively new to the sport, Panwar’s dedication and natural aptitude for rowing have paid off. “The Asian Games was my first big international tournament, and I’ve only been rowing for three years,” he said. Remarkably, in his first attempt, he managed to qualify for the Olympics, a testament to his hard work and the support of his coaches and team.

Experience and Growth at the Asian Games
Competing at the Asian Games in Hangzhou, China was a pivotal experience for Panwar. “With each tournament, our experience increases” he notes. “The Asian Games was an important stepping stone in my journey.” The intense competition and exposure to international standards have been invaluable in his preparation for the Olympics.

Training and Preparation for Paris
Panwar’s training regimen is rigorous and multifaceted. He emphasises the importance of acclimatisation and adaptation, stating, “We plan to reach Paris 20 days prior to the event. Training in France is crucial, even though the exact venue is not yet known.” He is currently coaching under Gurdarshan Singh and Olympian and Asian Games medallist, Bajrang Lal Takhar. Bajrang will join him soon to ensure he is in peak condition.

Mental Strength and Support
The mental aspect of preparation is equally important, especially in a solitary sport like single sculls. “We attend psychology classes twice a week with Suneksha madam. Mental health is crucial because in single sculls, we are alone and need to motivate ourselves,” stated Balraj.

Daily Life and Training Partners
A typical day for Balraj Panwar includes not only intense rowing sessions but also other activities to maintain overall fitness. “I play volleyball and have recovery sessions regularly,” he shares. Training alongside partners like Salman Khan and Karamjit provides a supportive environment that enhances his performance. “Having Salman and Karamjit really helps, because training alone will not give the real feel of the tournament.”

Diet and Nutrition
Proper nutrition is another critical aspect of Panwar’s training. His diet is carefully managed by a nutritionist to ensure he maintains optimal physical condition. “Diet is fully organised by our team nutritionist and we follow it”, said the rower.

Balancing Life as a Soldier and Athlete

Balraj Panwar understands the sacrifices required both as a sepoy and an athlete. “A sepoy also stays away from family, and so does an athlete. The sacrifice is the same,” he reflects. This dual commitment underscores his resilience and dedication to representing India on the world stage.

Looking Ahead to Paris
With high expectations for the Paris Olympics, Panwar aims to reach the semi-finals and hopes to achieve the best result for India. “I am determined to perform my best and make my country proud,” he asserts. “I hope to make it to the semi-finals and achieve the best ever feat for the country in rowing.”

Balraj Panwar’s journey from a small village in Haryana to the grand stage of the Paris Olympics is a story of passion, perseverance, and unwavering commitment. As he continues to train and prepare, the nation watches with pride and anticipation, hopeful for his success.

In May 2024, Balraj Panwar was inducted into the TOPS Core group. For the financial year 2023-24, the expenditure on Balraj Panwar included Rs 1,59,100 from the TOPS fund, which comprised Rs 50,000 twice as Out-of-Pocket Allowance and Rs 59,100 for equipment support. Additionally, Rs 35,95,524 was spent via the Annual Calendar for Training & Competitions (ACTC). This brings the total expenditure on Balraj Panwar for the year to Rs 37,54,624.