Of camaraderie, grandeur and stargazing - Debutants share their memories of Tokyo Olympics

Paddler G. Sathiyan, fencer Bhavani Devi and sailor Nethra Kumanan competed in their first Olympic Games in Tokyo.

Deepthi Bopaiah, executive director of GoSports Foundation, with Olympians Nethra Kumanan (sailing), G. Sathiyan (table tennis) and Bhavani Devi (fencing).

The aura of the Olympics is something, any player will tell you, that has to be seen to be believed. And for those who have made their debut at the quadrennial event, it is an experience to treasure for a lifetime. 

READ: Tokyo Olympics: The Friendship Games

Paddler G. Sathiyan, fencer Bhavani Devi and sailor Nethra Kumanan competed in their first Olympic Games in Tokyo. They share their experience in an interaction with Sportstar at a function organised by GoSports Foundation, which has been supporting the three athletes for the last few years.

Bhavani Devi:

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India’s first-ever Olympic fencer C. A. Bhavani Devi did well to reach the women’s sabre second round.



I was full of excitement going into the Olympics as it was a dream for a long time. I wanted to be there. Finally, it happened.

After I qualified, the process was smooth for me as the training went off well. In the last four months, I have improved a lot. Aldo Montano, the individual women’s sabre gold medallist in the 2004 Athens Games told my coach Nicola Zanotti that Bhavani is doing well and maybe you can expect something from her at the Games. I felt great. My mother was with me, so that was special.

I thought that the Olympic village would have big rooms like it is at the World University Games. It wasn't. Still, I  enjoyed it. I shopped so much that I didn’t have any space left in my bag. 

READ | Historic Olympics come to a remarkable end in Tokyo amid COVID-19 

The Indian women’s hockey team was staying in my apartment. I met a few of them (wearing masks!) 

I was waiting for the Opening ceremony. We walked for 2-3 kms and were a bit tired. Mary Kom removed her heels immediately after the ceremony got over!

I exchanged the opening ceremony dress with hockey player Navneet Kaur.

It was a great moment to meet my heroes Sania Mirza and Mary Kom. I told Sania that she remains my inspiration and she in turn asked me about fencing and the opponents I will be facing. 

Meeting Indian men’s team goalkeeper Sreejesh was also special. He told me to ‘treat the Olympics just as another competition and just enjoy the memories.’

To hear the stories of hockey player Manpreet Singh — he worked in Indian Overseas Bank in Chennai — was great. Each sportsperson's story is unique. To be part of the Olympics was a great memory. I learnt a lot from the people, from the competition and I thank each one of them who have been part of my journey.

I have to thank GoFundme, a crowdfunding platform that supported me in 2013-14.

I want to improve further and give better results in the future.

Nethra Kumanan:

Nethra Kumanan finished 35th overall in the laser radial class at the Tokyo Olympics.

 


It was a surreal experience. Suddenly there was so much attention on the sport. Sailing events were not held in the main village.  It was a one-hour drive by car from the Main Village.

On the day of the opening ceremony, we listened to Mary (Kom) didi speak to us the whole night. It was so good. By the time we went to the souvenir shop, it was empty. But the experience itself was surreal. The dining hall was full of athletes. 

The sailing venue was incredible. All the protocols were scrupulously followed by the authorities. On the sea, conditions were different every day, which you normally don’t see in any sailing tournament. The direction of the wind was different, the knots were different and the weather too changed.

READ: World Records broken at the Tokyo Games

The conditions on the sea were definitely challenging. Generally, when we finish the race, nobody tells us how we raced, but here, after each of our race, people called and told us ‘you did this and you did that’. It was crazy.
 
We saw the 48-year-old legend and five-time Olympic medallist Robert Scheidt of Brazil. What he has done for his country is amazing. We want to do the same for India one day. 

Laser standard sailor Vishnu Saravanan performed above expectations finishing 20th overall and being on the podium (3rd) in the ninth race.

My result was affected because I was so overwhelmed with the Olympics. My expectation was much much higher. I struggled to reach that level. I understood it later and managed the expectations.

One of the big things that we realised was how difficult it is to finish fourth at the Games. In the laser standard category, Cyprus’ Pavlos Kontides was in contention for gold midway in the race until he was shown a yellow flag, which is a penalty for a violation.

It affected his medal chances. Still, he was fully driven and fought in every race. He finished fourth overall. Only the top three get all the attention.

G. Sathiyan:
 

GoSports Foundation has been supporting G. Sathiyan for more than 10 years.


The Olympic village was amazing. I have been to Commonwealth Games and the Asian Games, but this is different. The entire set-up was amazing. The feeling was grandeur. The organisation was top-class. The best part of the Games is that you bump into different athletes. The village experience is something!

I met the tennis players Novak Djokovic (World No.1) and Stefanos Tsitsipas. To see World No.1 and watching other sports are something that I have not done before. 

Meeting Indian superstars such as Mary Kom, P.V. Sindhu and Sania Mirza were special. It was also an opportunity to share our sports insights with each other.