ALAPPUZHA: More women teams will make their presence felt in the 67th edition of Nehru Trophy Boat Race to be held in Punnamada Kayal on August 10.
The contest in the Thekkinodi category, which was an affair of the village women in Kuttanad till last year, has been thrown open to women from across Kerala making the competition tougher.
Some 35 police women are undergoing rigorous practice in the leading channel at Karuvatta near Haripad while women under the district Kudumbashree Mission will begin their training in Pampa river near Pulinkunnu panchayat office on Thursday.
U.S. Sreedevi, captain of the women police team, who has no experience in paddling a boat, is determined to bring glory to her department. A senior civil police officer at Murikasserry police station in Idukki district, she undergoes at least four hours of practice every day along with her colleagues.
“The team is well set and I am confident of throwing paddles in a rhythmic and consistent way. Women cops from across the state are included in our team and they are all physically fit,” she said.
A two-day selection of rowers for the Kudumbasree team ended on Tuesday and 35 women have been recruited from 80 brought in by Community Development Societies (CDS) in the district.
“We fight to win, not for exhibition,” said Sunitha Manoj, captain. “We have been trained in paddling by five traditional masters and the team will undergo routine training from Wednesday. The fund for the training was raised through CDS and approved by the district mission. We will row in the boat ‘Kattithekkathil’ from Thrikkunnapuzha,” she said.
Janatha Shaji, 32, captain of Friends Woman Boat Club, Punnamada, two-time champion in the Thekkinodi category, is busy with the preparations for the race. She is a born rower and paddling boats is part of her lifestyle. She will lead her team this year as well, but things will not be easy as in the past due to the arrival of new professional teams.
According to her, a daily allowance of Rs 600 is given to each woman rower in her boat. “It’s an expensive affair for us and we get a pittance of Rs 60,000 as grant from the NTBR society every year,” she said.
Despite the changing times, a competition for women in the snake boat category is still far off. An exception was an exhibition race by women in 2012. The maiden Champions Boat League (CBL) to be kicked off along with NTBR is expected to give a new direction to the boat races.