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In a first, four Indian sailors together qualify for the Olympics; Nethra Kumanan becomes the first Indian woman sailor to qualify directly

In a historic first, four Indian sailors- Nethra Kumanan, Vishnu Saravanan, KC Ganapathy and Varun Thakkar- qualified for a single edition of the Olympics. Nethra Kumanan achieved the feat of becoming the first Indian sailor to have booked a place at the Olympics directly.

Nethra Kumanan

At the Mussanah Open Championship in Oman, Nethra Kumanan finished sixth and was placed second overall in the medal round. With that performance she booked her place in the Tokyo Olympics in the Laser Radial category of the Sailing event. Nethra is the first woman from India to do so and significantly, the first Indian sailor to have booked a place at the Olympics directly.

Nethra was introduced to Sailing during a summer camp organised by Tamil Nadu Sailing Association in 2009 at the age of 12. Although she was into Tennis, Basketball and Cycling but eventually she took up Sailing. “I love it, it’s like no other sport, and I played everything as a kid,” says Nethra. “Sailing has been different and more mental than any other sport that I’ve tried.” [Source: Olympic Channel].

Nethra has been training in Spain for almost two years and often has to shuttle between Chennai and Spain while managing her B.E Mechanical Engineering lessons online. She won the national championships twice and has been a runner-up on two other occasions. Her first podium finish in an international event came at the India International Regatta held in Chennai in 2014.

Though Nethra was a part of 2014 Incheon Asian Games and 2018 Jakarta Asian Games but she came into the limelight after winning a bronze at the Hempel World Cup Series in Miami in 2020. She became the first Indian woman to win a World Cup medal in Sailing.

In Tokyo 2020 Olympics, Nethra Kumanan will be competing in the Laser Radial category. The category was first introduced as an Olympic discipline at Beijing in 2008. Nethra is presently training under Hungarian coach Tamas Eszes, a two-time Olympian.

Vishnu Saravanan

Vishnu Saravana finished second at Mussanah Open Championship and sealed his place for Tokyo Olympics. Competing in Laser Standard category, Vishnu finished third with a netpoint of 51 and guaranteed a berth for Tokyo Olympics following the medal race. In the medal Vishnu bagged 2 points as he finished first.

The Laser Standard is the original rig, with the largest sail of all variations and has been used at the Olympic Games since 1996. Indian Army’s Madras Engineer Group (MEG)’s Naib Subedar Vishnu Saravanan had undergone training at Malta under the Sail Coach Academy for the past two years.

Vishnu enrolled into Boys Sports Company, MEG and Centre in 2015 as a Boys Sports Cadet. He won medals in Junior National and Youth National Championships and participated in the Hong Kong Sailing Week – 2016 (ASAF Series – 2) where he won a silver medal. Based on these performances, Vishnu was appointed directly as a Naib Subedar into MEG 2017.

After enrollment into the Army, Vishnu won his first gold medal in Senior National Championship in  2018 and bronze medal in the Laser Youth U-21 World Sailing Championship 2019 held at Croatia.

K C Ganapathy and Varun Thakkar

KC Ganapathy and Varun Thakkar qualified for the Tokyo Olympics by finishing at the top in the 49er category at the Mussanah Open Sailing Championships. The pair of Ganapathy and Thakkar had won bronze at the 2018 Jakarta Asian Games.

In the 49er category, two sailors on-board take different roles. One generally steers the boat while the other undertakes more of the physical work and controls the sail. Both of the crew are equipped with their own trapeze, and sail.

After the qualification of four Indian sailors for the Tokyo Olympics, Capt Jitendra Dixit, Joint Secretary of Yachting Association of India, told PTI “Yes, history has been scripted. Four Indian sailors have qualified for Olympics to compete in three events. It’s the maximum number of sailors qualified and also in number of events.”

There have been four instances of two Indian sailors qualifying for the Olympics earlier but they took part in the same event. The Indian pair of Farokh Tarapore and Dhruv Bhandari participated in the 470 Class at the Los Angeles Olympic in 1984. Tarapore and Kelly Rao represented India in the same event of Sailing at the Seoul Olympic Games in 1988. Tarapore, in his third Olympics, paired with Cyrus Cama to take part in the same 470 class in Barcelona Games in 1992. Malav Shroff and Sumeet Patel participated in 2004 Athens Olympics in 49er Class.

About Poulomi Kundu

PoulomiKundu started her career in 2000 as a freelance journalist in Hindustan Times. Soon after she was selected an intern in Zee News, Kolkata. After her post- graduation in English, Poulomi joined the leading television production house of eastern India, Rainbow Productions. She was a journalist in Khas Khobor, a Bengali news magazine programme in Doordarshan and also headed the post production department of another programme, Khas Kolkata. In 2004, Poulomi moved to Delhi as a creative writer in an advertising agency, Brand Stewards Pvt. Ltd. In 2005, she again shifted her base for a better opportunity and that in Mumbai. There she got the job in Raa Media Pvt Ltd. as an associate director of two programmes for Doordarshan-Yuva and Paisa Vasool. In the meantime, she also wrote features in DNA as a freelancer. Poulomi directs promotional videos, develops scripts for films for Corporate and NGOs. But an ardent sports lover, Poulomi always had an urge to contribute somewhere in the field of sports. Her love for sports started from an early age when she played gully cricket and football for local teams. Academics and professional hazards sometimes took her away from her passion, but it never died in her. She always nurtured the never-ending dream. So she materialized her dream in the form of ‘SPORTSAVOUR’. It is an online sports portal that serves sports with the tagline ‘For the indigenous, unconventional, unknown’.

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