By Venkatachari Jagannathan
Chennai, July 25 (SocialNews.XYZ) 23-year-old Indian K. Nethra will not only face more than 40 competitors, but will also face nature in the sailing event of the ongoing Tokyo Olympics.
Sailing is an event where Mother Nature can be both your friend and your enemy.
A favorable wind and water current can make navigation smooth. But adverse weather conditions and waves can make navigation difficult.
Regardless, Nethra, a second year mechanical engineering student at SRM Institute of Science and Technology, is the first Indian woman to qualify for the Olympics in the sailing event.
Nethra participates in the Laser Radial (individual boat) at the Games.
On Sunday, she landed in Japanese waters for her Olympic Games debut.
“At the end of the two races on Sunday, Nethra’s overall position was 27th out of 44 competitors,” her father, VC Kumanan told IANS.
As said before, a lot can change over the next few days as there are still several rounds left before the medal race.
Nethra landed in Tokyo with a bronze medal at the Hempel World Cup Series in January 2020 in Miami; a silver medal (First Asian) at the Mussanah Open Championship in April 2021 in Oman; and gold medals in several other international and national events.
Prior to the Tokyo Olympics, Nethra participated in around 75 events of which 15 were domestic and 60 were international events.
The 60 events were 14 at world level, 36 other international events and 10 at Asian level, including the two Asian Games in 2014 and 2018.
It all started at the age of 10 for Nethra when she and her brother K. Naveen attended a sailing camp in 2011 organized by the Tamil Nadu Sailing Association.
“They both became addicted to the sport. In addition, Association officials explained to us the safety precautions to be taken. As parents, we had no fear for safety,” said Kumanan.
He said his wife K. Sreeja, who was previously with the city-based Murugappa group, was also not worried about her children sailing at sea.
âUnlike other activities, sailing took all day as we had to rig the boat, sail out to sea, have a few hours workout followed by a lunch break and continue with another session. uninstall the boat etc and all the effort and be in the sun you get exhausted at the end of the day.
âTherefore, as the intensity of sailing increased, I had to give up everything else,â Nethra said.
Soon she started to compete and win events
Sailing took precedence over his Bharatanatyam, painting and school.
“In 2012, I won the U-17 national silver medal and a gold medal the following year. It was a big turning point for me as I looked for success after success,” she said. .
A brilliant student, Nethra completed her 10th grade at KFI The School here, opted for open education, and finished grade 12 at the Indira Gandhi National Open School.
âAs I entered Anna University BE (Mech) and finished my first year, my trip shook my attendance and I had to lose two years of study,â Nethra said.
She then joined the SRM Institute of Science and Technology, which supported her sports activity.
âIt’s an expensive sport once you move up through the ranks. At the club level, sailing can be more economical than tennis and other sports,â Kumanan said.
Kumanan, a cybersecurity expert, was previously at IDFC Ltd and Cholamandalam before starting his own company Abhayaa Solutions.
âWe managed her expenses from our funds. It’s her luck, I would say, that there will be extra income every time she participates in an international competition,â Kumanan said.
According to Nethra, the Yachting Association of India had supported her by participating in training and around eight major events like the Japan Worlds and the Mussanah Open.
She was selected under the Indian government’s Target Olympic Podium Scheme (TOPS) program, which to some extent meets its financial needs.
For the past year, Nethra has been away from home in Gran Canaria, Canary Islands, Spain to train and also compete in sailing events.
From 2019 she was coached by Tamas Eszes, the two-time Olympian who heads the European Sailing Academy in Gran Canaria.
Kumanan said there are several Olympians training there which has allowed Nethra to improve.
According to Nethra, sailing is a sport dominated by Europeans and Asian countries like China, Hong Kong, Japan and Singapore, and the best coaches are there mostly in Europe.
âDespite a very long coastline and superb sailing conditions in India, especially in Chennai, we must base ourselves in Europe if we aspire to great achievements at the international level. Europe has the advantage of good coaches, many sailors and also many events which are of high caliber, âshe said.
Kumanan said Nethra is a bold girl with a lot of self-confidence and has lived abroad to train on her own.
The only advantage for Nethra is that age is on her side and she still has a few Olympics and other international events to go to.
âShe has only sailed the Laser Radial boat. It is also an advantage for her,â said Kumanan.
(Venkatachari Jagannathan can be contacted at [email protected])