CHENNAI: Nethra Kumanan is all set to make history on Thursday by becoming the first woman sailor from the country to qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics at the Mussanah Open Championship at Mussanah, Oman — the Olympic Qualifier for Asia.
All that the 22-year-old from Chennai needs to do is complete the 10-boat medal race without any incident for her to seal the Tokyo berth. At the end of Day 5 of the races on Wednesday, Nethra was leading in the women’s Laser Radial class with 18 points.
She is well-ahead of her nearest rival — Stephanie Norton from Hong Kong — who is on 41 points. Nethra is ahead of the second-placed Emma Charlotte Jeanne Savelon by three points but the latter isn’t fighting for an Olympics berth in this event. Sailing follows a low-scoring system. “I am extremely happy with my performance in the tournament and it will be a huge high to be representing India at the Olympics — the biggest sporting stage. Despite a good show in this event, I still feel I can get better and my focus is currently on the medal race on Thursday,” Nethra told TOI on Wednesday. She didn’t have the best of starts in this Championship but soon got into her groove from Day 2 and never looked back.
Nethra, a second-year engineering student at the SRM college, felt her training in Spain for the past one year took her game to a new level. “Even as many other sailors were finding it difficult to train due to covid-19 pandemic, I was able to do so with some of the best in Gran Canaria, part of Spain’s Canary Islands. Regular training and sailing during lockdown have made me a much better sailor than what I was before,” she said. Nethra caught the attention of many last year when she became the first Indian woman to win a medal at the Sailing World Cup — a bronze — in the Laser Radial category. “Winning that medal was a huge confidence booster for me,” said Nethra, who has represented India in the 2014 Incheon and 2018 Jakarta Asian Games.
Meanwhile, there are other Indians who are in the hunt for an Olympics berth. In the 49er class, KC Ganapathy and Varun Thakkar — on 51 points — remain in the lead. The duo enjoy a 12-point lead over their nearest rivals, Akira Sakai and Russel Williams Ayslworth. Ganapathy and Varun will have to put in their best foot forward to bag the Tokyo ticket.
In the Laser Standard class, Vishnu Saravanan is in third spot and needs to defeat Keerati Bualong of Thailand and make sure China’s Wu Jiannan and Hong Kong’s Nick Bezy — who are on 55 points each — don’t better him in the medal race.