Nethra Kumanan: How 'analytical skills' of her father guide the ace Indian sailor

The 23-year-old’s final shot at qualifying for Tokyo will come at the Mussanah Open Championship in Oman in April
By Samrat Chakraborty

In a country where most people still don't know that there can be a potential career in sailing, Chennai's Nethra Kumanan, belongs to the waters. And rightly so -- Kumanan has sailed further than any other Indian woman. The 23-year-old became the first Indian woman to win a medal (bronze) in the sport, at the 2019 Hempel World Cup Series in Miami.

An engineering student at the SRM College in Chennai, her journey in sailing started when she stumbled into the sport at summer camp.

She also inspired her younger brother, Naveen, to take up the sport and achieve decent results at national level before he decided to move away from it and pursue his education in Michigan.

"My parents are my rocks they support me fully and give me something to hold onto when I’m away for long periods. Sometimes it gets tough but they’re always there for me," Kumanan told the Olympic Channel.

"Dad enjoys doing his part of the research, where I stand compared to the others and analyzing the results and facts that he comes across. With the feedback I give him, he puts two and two together. If we ever feel like this dream is unrealistic (which was the case after the Rio 2016 qualifiers when I quit for a year), he will let me know and bring me back to earth.

"But sailing is sailing. It’s very individual and how I do each day and each race is what will determine my result nothing else. But a little confidence never hurt," she further described.

At present, Kumanan, is excited about the prospect of qualifying for the Tokyo Games through the 2021 Mussanah Open Championship in Oman -- which will be the final chance to qualify for the Asian and African sailors -- starting from April 1 at the Al Mussanah Sports City. 

She sails in the laser radial class, where small, dinghy-style boats is used single-handedly. Kumanan, however, underlined the major challenges in sailing her class. 

"In my class of boat, which is one design, the only difference really comes from the sailors physical, technical and tactical ability. It’s a boat that requires a lot of strength and technique. The girls at the top are real athletes with incredible strength and endurance and coordination," Kumanan explained. 

"And the racing comes down to a couple of meters in a good fleet of boats so everything counts."

Kumanan has also represented the nation at the 2014 and 2018 Asian Games. Her major test, however, awaits in Oman where she will be looking to book her maiden berth for the Olympics.