A boy who grew up in the remote village of Talegaon Rohi, from the Chandwad Taluka in rural western Maharashtra, taking care of his ailing father by digging wells, tilling farmland, and grazing cattle will soon represent the nation at the 2016 Olympics, scheduled to take place in Rio De Janeiro next week. Sounds like a rags to riches story taken straight from a fairytale of sorts? Well, it is very much real, and it is the life story of India’s Olympic Rower, Dattu Bhokanal.
Dattu Bhokanal was busy with his daily life in his village until his father who was ailing with bone cancer passed away. It was when Dattu did not receive any kind of support from relatives, that he decided to Join the Indian Army at the age of 19.
He decided to play to his strengths when he realized that he would not be able to do well in the written test of the Indian Army and this strength was his physical durability which later proved to be very useful indeed. Dattu Bhokanal wanted to take up a sport while in the Army, and he had a strong determination to overcome his fears which is exactly what led him to choose Rowing, as he did not know how to swim and needed to overcome his fear of swimming.
The physical strength and durability possessed by Dattu helped him excel in Rowing, and his superiors in the army began to notice his skill at the sport. Soon, Dattu was being coached in the sport and his Coaches had given him a target of 7 minutes and 10 seconds in order to qualify for Rio. At the Qualifying event in Incheon, Korea, he clocked an amazing time of 7 minutes and 9 seconds clinching second place.
Dattu Bhokanal is the only Indian to qualify for the Singles Sculls event at the 2016 Olympics and is currently training in Miami.