From tennis and dancing to sailing, Nethra Kumanan’s journey to Olympics

CHENNAI: By the time she was 12, Nethra Kumanan had tried her hand at tennis, cycling, basketball and even some Bharatnatyam but it was in sailing that she found her true calling in life, a choice she justified by becoming the first Indian woman sailor to qualify for the Olympics.
The Chennai-based 23-year-old spoke to PTI from Oman, where she made the cut for Tokyo in the laser radial class at the Asian Olympic Qualifiers. 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.
“I tried my hand at tennis, basketball, cycling, art and I also trained in Bharatanatyam also which I had to give up for sailing. My mother put me in a summer camp for one year which is something I’ve done every year growing up so this is the one that stuck!” Nethra said, looking back at how it all began, in an interaction from Mussanah in Oman.
Nethra said she had been working hard for the one and a half years staying away from home and it had paid off. “I’ve been working hard for this for the past 18 months and away from home for a long time…and it is good to know that it all paid off and the event is done and we’ve got what we came for,” she said.
Nethra has been training with Hungarian coach Tamas Eszes, a two-time Olympian, and she said 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.”
The soft-spoken second year engineering student at the SRM College here said she was stuck in Spain during the COVID-19 lockdown last year but used the time to good effect by training with international sailors.
“I got stuck in Spain due to the coronavirus lockdown. I was able to use the time once the lockdown was lifted by training with international athletes in Gran Canaria,” she said. Having qualified for the Olympics, she is aware of the challenges that await her.
She said Tokyo would be the first step towards being truly competitive at the 2024 Games in Paris.


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