Grit and glory: As mother battles for life in hospital, Indian rower Dattu Bhokanal aims for nation’s pride
Saddled by poor shows by shooters, paddlers and tennis players, rower Dattu Baban Bhokanal has proven to be among the few bright sparks in India’s Olympic journey so far.
An army rower, Bhokanal entered the quarterfinals of the men’s single sculls after finishing third in his qualifying round at Lagao Lake. While the performance is commendable in itself, what lends even more credence to the feat is his personal story.
As Bhokanal represents the nation in the world’s biggest sporting extravaganza, his mother Asha Bhavana Bhokanal’s health is sinking constantly. She met with an accident just a few days before the Olympian was to depart for Rio, says an Indian Express report.
The grit and steely resolve that Bhokanal has shown in times of personal mental trauma is no mean feat. Besides, he stares at a possibility of returning from the Games after its conclusion to sell his house to gather enough money for his mother’s treatment by a specialist in Delhi. Bhokanal’s coach Paul Mokha said that the 25-year-old army rower is worried for his mother while he prepares for the quarterfinals that will be held on Tuesday.
Although the army assisted in the initial treatment, her deteriorating health has reached a level that she needs to be medicated at a private hospital.
As it turns out, Bhokanal has not had a smooth run with the federation. He insisted on continuing training with the army coach rather than with the national coach. While the decision doesn’t seem to have gone down well with the IOA, Bhokanal is unaccompanied in the Games Village and is extremely shy of mingling with the high-profile athletes who communicate in English.
“We’d have liked a better supporting environment for him, but he won’t complain. He’ll go about doing his thing, knowing that when he returns, things are going to turn difficult both in rowing and on the home front. It’d be nice to have a shoulder around his arm at his first Olympics, but he’s too shy to approach the big stars of the Indian contingent,” Indian Express quoted Mokha as saying.
In the first heat of the day, the 25-year-old from the Indian Army finished the 2000-meter race in seven minutes and 21.67 seconds at the Lagoa Stadium here.
The Maharashtra lad is the sole Indian to have qualified for the rowing events. He was in second place for the first 500 metres of the race, but started to lag behind once Juan Carlos of Mexico in the second lane picked up pace around the 700m mark.
Dattu witnessed one of the worst phases of life when his father passed away five years ago. All the savings they had was spent on the treatment of his father, who was a farmer and well digger in a Nashik village in Maharashtra.
All Dattu had then was a piece of land to earn a living for his mother and two younger brothers.
Bhokanal grew vegetables like onions on his land to acquire a livelihood. His hard work turned fruitful when he got selected in the Indian Army in 2012 through an open recruitment drive and has never looked back since then.