Bhokanal was in second position for the most part of the single sculls race but would freeze around the 1200m mark before finishing sixth as his boat capsized.
Recalling his plight, Bhokanal said he contracted cold while on the flight to Indonesia. "I thought it was a minor thing but it got aggravated after landing there because of the climate change from Pune. On the race day, I rowed with
104-plus fever and the boat also toppled to add to the misery. Water got into my ears and nose and I lost out on a definite gold medal," Bhoknal said during a felicitation at the Calcutta Rowing Club on Saturday.
But the entire team stood by him as he returned to make amends in the team event to win India's only second gold at the Asian Games rowing, the first being Bajrang Lal Thakkar's in Guangzhou 2010.
"I was really depressed to have returned with empty-handed from my favourite event. But my teammates stood by me and told me 'don't worry we can still win the team event," he recalled.
He took complete rest for the quadruple event scheduled days later and that his team mates - experienced Sawarn Singh, Om Prakash and youngster Sukhmeet Singh - were fully fit and that made up for his weak health due to a heavy dose of antibiotics. The quadruple sculls squad also changed their tactics after the dismal show by being steady only to step on the gas in the last 500m as the move did pay off and helped win the race by close to three seconds.
Their success was however dampened after India's foreign coach Nicolae Gioga from Romania was fired hours after India bagged gold. There was a tussle between the Romanian coach and the Indian rowers and it came to the fore during the Games with the latter openly criticising the rowers while his methods were not liked by his wards.
"I do not want to comment on that. I took advice from our Indian coach as well and foreign coach too. I have delivered under both of them so I would not like to blame anyone"' Bhokanal said.