Nethra Kumanan: Tokyo Olympics is a huge milestone for me

Nethra Kumanan became the first Indian woman ever to qualify for the Olympics in Sailing when she finished first in the laser radial class at the Mussanah Open.

Ranked 71 in the world in her category, Nethra Kumanan was the top seed in Oman and she justified her top billing winning the event by a comfortable margin (File Photo).   -  FACEBOOK/NETHRA KUMANAN

“The cure for anything is saltwater-sweat, tears, or the sea.” - Danish author Isak Dinesen.

Sailor Nethra Kumanan would readily and happily agree with Dinesen. Having been sailing since the age of 13, the 23-year-old has achieved what she set out for more than six years ago -- qualify for the upcoming 2021 Tokyo Olympic Games.

The native of Chennai became the first Indian woman ever to make it to the quadrennial event in Sailing when she finished first in the laser radial class at the Mussanah Open Championships, the Asian qualifiers, on the shores of Gulf of Oman recently.

Ranked 71 in the world in her class, Nethra was the top seed at the Mussanah Open and she justified her top billing winning the event by a comfortable margin. The difference in nett points between Nethra and her second-placed rival Stephanie Norton of Hong Kong was a huge 17 points.

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Learning from earlier mistakes, Nethra religiously heeded to the advice of her Hungarian coach Tamas Eszes, a two-time Olympian in laser standard class, during the Qualifiers. The World Cup medalist didn't aim to finish first in all the races, but ensured that she remained with the top fleet in each one of them. That way, Nethra ensured that she was consistent in all the 10 races even if she dropped down a bit in one or two of them.

How did Nethra do so well in the qualification despite the pressure? She attributes it to the one-and-a-half-year stint she had at the Gran Canaria in Spain under coach Eszes. Nethra practiced with quite a few top sailors including Vasileia Karachaliou of Greece (world rank 13), France’s Marie Bolou (16) and Ebru Bolat (75) of Romania.

Nethra was all praise of her Spanish sojourn. “The Academy in Gran Canaria has a well qualified team surrounding the athletes. All of us benefited immensely from the environment that they've worked hard to build,” Nethra told Sportstar.

According to Nethra’s father V. C. Kumanan, who was with his daughter in Oman, her level went up quite a few notches after her training in Spain.

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The disappointment she had at Abu Dhabi in the 2016 Asian Qualification Championships made her work and plan hard. “I took a year off after that to reassess to surround myself with a team rather than just one person and dedicated myself to the process rather than just the goal and it obviously made the difference,” said Nethra.

How much has her approach to the sport changed over the years? Not much, she says. “Fundamentally it’s always been the same but it’s obviously gotten more professional and now we enjoy more than just the wind, the ocean and the travel. We enjoy the racing, the stress, the wins and the losses, the strategy and the game itself,” she added.

Nethra knows the challenges at the postponed 2020 Tokyo Games and admits that it would be difficult to win a medal. She will, however, gather experience and soak it up so that she would be in good stead at the 2024 Paris Olympics. “Being realistic, I am very aware that Tokyo Olympics is a huge milestone for me but it is also important to gain experience and learn as much as possible to better prepare myself for Paris,” she claimed.

Nethra will spend some time with her parents and younger brother in India before going back to Gran Canaria in the first week of May to prepare for Olympics.