For the first time in Indian Olympic history, India will be sending four sailors to the Games.
Nethra Kumanan, Vishnu Saravanan, Ganapathy Chengappa K. and Varun Thakkar qualified for the Tokyo Olympics post their strong show at the Mussanah Open Sailing Championships. Kumanan also made history by becoming the first Indian to qualify for the Games by winning the qualifying event in the Laser Radial category, rather than getting a berth due to the quotas not getting filled like her predecessors.
As Indian sailing returns to the Olympics for the first time since Beijing 2008, let’s take a look at the contingent.
Nethra Kumanan – (Women’s Laser Radial)
Born in Chennai, Nethra was first introduced to sailing at the age of 12 during a summer camp organised by the Tamil Nadu Sailing Association. Nethra’s passion for sailing saw her win the national championship twice and finish runner-up twice.
Kumanan has been nothing less than a trailblazer for India in the sport. She was the first Indian woman to win a medal in sailing, post her bronze medal at the Hempel World Cup Series in 2020.
The Chennai girl’s sailing journey started at the Mussanah Open in 2013 when she competed in the U-21 category. Kumanan had her first podium finish at the India International Regatta in 2014. There’s been no looking back ever since.
Kumanan has previously represented India at the 2014 and 2018 Asian Games, with the sailor securing a fourth-place best finish in the 2018 edition. Kumanan heads into the 2020 Olympics on a rich vein of form and possibly can give the country their best result in the sport.
Vishnu Saravanan – (Men’s Laser)
Saravanan’s second place finish in the Laser Standard category earned him his maiden Olympic berth, fulfilling a childhood dream for the Tamilian.
Saravanan became the national youth champion in 2016 and followed it up with a silver medal at the 2016 Hong Kong Series. The youngster joined the Indian Army the following year, enrolling as a Naib Subedar. Saravanan credits his Army training in making him more discipline and focused towards the sport.
His first senior triumph came at the 2018 National Championship which he followed up with a bronze medal at the U-21 World Championship in Croatia 2019. The World Championship medal finish gave him an opportunity for the Olympic qualifiers in March 2020. Although COVID hampered his qualification last year when the Mussanah Open Championship was announced as the Asian Olympic qualifier, the young sailor showcased his talent which saw him finish second in the overall standing and helped him earn a maiden Olympic call. Vishnu will be competing in the Men’s Laser Standard category at Tokyo. Although the competition will be tough, it remains to be seen how far the young sailor can go.
KC Ganapathy – (Men’s 49er)
The 25-year-old sailor from Chennai will be making his first Olympic appearance this summer at the Tokyo Games. Ganapathy’s top spot finish at the Mussanah Open Sailing Championship in Oman saw his secure an Olympic spot.
Ganapathy’s biggest highlight of his career till date came at the 2018 Asian Games when the youngster took the bronze medal at the Men’s 49er event alongside Varun Thakkar. Ganapathy will partner Thakkar in the Men’s 49er event and their previous experience together, having trained together since 2011, will definitely help them in putting forward a strong show.
Varun Thakkar – (Men’s 49er)
When Varun Thakkar qualified for the Tokyo Olympics, it was not only an unreal feeling for the 26-year-old, but also a sense of relief. All the hard work put in by Thakkar and the support received from his family had finally paid off.
Thakkar had made the bold choice of dropping out of school to concentrate on his sailing passion, and with full support from his family, that decision is reaping its benefits today. A young Thakkar started with laser boats in 2008 and then shifted to the 29er boats in 2011. The shift from 29er saw the Chennai boy move to the 49ers.
Thakkar, who will be representing India in the Olympics in the 49er category, will be paired up with KC Ganapathy, someone who he has been training with for a decade now, and both of them are confident of a good show with aims of finishing in the top 10 at Tokyo.