Indian sailor Nethra Kumanan hogged the limelight on Wednesday after clinching a historic Tokyo Olympics quota with a race to spare at the Mussanah Open Championships. The 23-year-old became the first Indian female sailor to achieve this feat.
On Wednesday, Nethra held a considerable lead of 21 points over the chasing pack that ensured her Olympic qualification in the Laser Radial class. She finished second behind the Netherlands' Emma Charlotte Jeanne Savelon in Thursday's medal race.
Growing up, Nethra was always engaged in various sports, including tennis, basketball, and cycling. In fact, her entry into the sport was fortuitous, to say the least.
At only 12, she participated in a summer camp organized by the Tamil Nadu Sailing Association. With her selection into the camp, her tryst with sailing began that would define the course for the rest of her life.
Going back to her early days, Nethra loved to dance and is a trained Bharatanatyam dancer. To this day, she admits how classical dance has shaped her into a better performer in the water.
"I love it, it’s like no other sport, and I played everything as a kid. Sailing has been different and more mental than any other sport that I’ve tried," Nethra told the Olympic Channel.
Tracing Nethra's journey from Bharatnatyam to Tokyo Olympics
Nethra had earlier represented India at the 2014 and 2018 Asian Games. She first gave an exhibition of her immense talent by securing a podium finish at the India International Regatta in 2014. She has clinched the national championship title twice and finished as a runner-up on two other occasions.
Nethra shot to fame last year after becoming the first Indian woman to win a World Cup medal in sailing. She bagged a bronze medal at the event held in Miami, USA.
Tokyo Olympics: Poised for glory
Nethra became the tenth Indian sailor to qualify for the Olympics. Nachhatar Singh Johal (2008), Shroff and Sumeet Patel (2004), F Tarapore and Cyrus Cama (1992), Kelly Rao (1988), Dhruv Bhandari (1984), and Soli Contractor and AA Basith (1972) have previously represented India at the Olympics.
Interestingly, all nine Indian sailors qualified for the Olympics through nominations for quota spots that did not fill up through the qualifiers. Nethra is the first Indian sailor to earn a direct Olympic quota through a qualifier.