First female Indian sailor qualifies for Olympics

Chennai-based 23-year-old Nethra Kumanan has become the first female sailor from India to qualify for the Olympics.

But Kumanan isn’t just the first Indian woman sailor to compete in the Olympics, she’s also the first one to legitimately qualify. The nine Indians who have participated in sailing events at the Olympics before were called in to fill up quotas that could not be occupied, according to Business Insider India.

And, she did it with a borrowed boat. Kumanan’s boat had undergone serious damage during transit from Abu Dhabi’s port storage to Al Musannah Sports City in Oman as the Asian qualifiers were delayed due to the Covid-19 pandemic. 

She had to borrow a boat from her teammate, Ram Milan Yadav. “He [Yadav] was nice enough to understand that at the end of the day, it was about one of us winning an Olympic berth and helpfully gave me his boat,” Kumanan told ESPN. “It was really a team effort.”

Enjoying sport from a young age, by the time she was 12, Kumanan had participated in tennis, cycling, basketball and dancing, but it was in sailing that she found her true calling in life. She first made a mark with a bronze medal in the World Cup last year after having competed in the Asian Games in 2014 and 2018, reports Scroll.in (https://scroll.in/field/991828/was-away-from-home-for-long-and-worked-very-hard-sailor-nethra-kumanan-on-qualifying-for-olympics).

Kumanan has been training with Hungarian coach Tamas Eszes, a two-time Olympian, and she says they had been focussed on dealing with the stress of racing. “We’ve been working (with each other) for more than a year…So we’ve worked on everything from learning to be a full-time athlete to learning to deal with the stress of racing,” says Kumanan.

Having now qualified, Kumanan is aware of the challenges that await her. She says Tokyo will be the first step towards being truly competitive at the 2024 Games in Paris. “As these are my first Olympic games, I will try to do my best and it’s the first step to get ready to be able to compete with the top girls in Paris in 2024.”

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This article was written and/or edited by the UK-based MIN team.

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