Nethra Kumanan from Chennai is a powerhouse of talent. The 22-year-old engineering student, who became the first Indian woman sailor to earn a berth for the Olympics, is also a trained dancer, singer, and proficient painter.
Kumanan developed an interest in the sport during a summer camp in school. She had already tried her hands at tennis, cycling, basketball and even Bharatnatyam at the age of 12. However, it was in sailing that she found her true calling in life.
Kumanan will be the 10th Indian to qualify for a sailing event in the Olympics, with all the earlier nine being male athletes. She will be competing for the Laser Radial event - which is a single handed boat that it is sailed by only one person.
All the earlier nine had made it to the Olympics by getting nominated for quotas that were not filled up through the qualifiers. Kumanan is the first Indian woman to win a sailing World Cup medal last year with 18 net points, while her nearest rival, Hong Kong’s Stephanie Norton, is placed fourth with 41 points going into Thursday’s medal race.
Kumanan has been training in Spain for the last year and a half. She qualified for the Tokyo Olympics by bagging the first position recently at the Laser Radial event in the Mussanah Open Championship, a joint Asian and African Olympic qualifying event, on the shores of Gulf of Oman.
"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," Kumanan told the media.
The youngster has been around the sailing circuit. She had represented India in the 2014 Incheon and 2018 Jakarta Asian Games but she came into the limelight after winning a bronze at the Hempel World Cup Series, Miami, in January last year.
Currently in India, Kumanan will go back to Spain in the first week of May to prepare for the Olympics.
(Edited by Amrita Ghosh)