During his swimming classes well over a decade ago, Devendra Surve chanced upon some people kayaking in the area. A state-level football player then, he switched from the team sport to individual events such as canoeing and kayaking in 2008. Surve, who was conferred with Maharashtra’s Shiv Chhatrapati State Sports Award for Canoeing and Kayaking for 2021-22, said his professional journey began from day one and in a year he aced the state-level sub-junior championship.
His grandfather Shantaram Surve was a basketball player, which also served as a motivation for him to pursue sports. Till the age of 14, before professionally switching to canoeing and kayaking, the junior Surve tried his hand at various sports like football, basketball, handball, etc. But he realised that there is not much scope in individual sports. Talking about it, he said, “Earlier people mostly chose cricket, but Neeraj Chopra has now inspired us and people are leaning more towards pursuing individual sports.”
Pursuing kayaking was not financially draining for Surve as he got trained at the government-sponsored Thergaon Boat Club in Pimpri Chinchwad. He elaborated that the monthly fee there is Rs 1,000, and once you play at the national level, training and equipment are provided free of cost. The Thergaon Boat Club was inaugurated in 2007 by the then mayor Mangala Kadam as an attempt by the Pimpri Chinchwad Municipal Corporation (PCMC) to promote water sports.
Nevertheless, Surve highlighted that across the state, there are no clubs with equipment and facilities of international standards. “Kayaking in Maharashtra is a battle as we have to compete with no resources against the unbeatable,” he said, pointing out that most people who make it into sports like kayaking and canoeing come from the Army or Navy, so it is difficult for others.
The sport has given him an identity, Surve added, and said that he is determined to take every opportunity he gets to win medals for the country. His next goal is to be able to represent India in the Asian Games.
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