Nethra Kumanan on Wednesday became the first Indian woman sailor to qualify for the Olympics after being secured the highest spot in the laser radial event of the Asian qualifiers in Oman.
The 23-year-old Kumanan has a 21-point advantage over her closest rival, who is also an Indian – Ramya Saravanan – in the Laser Radial Class event with one race to start on Thursday.
Chennai-based Kumanan currently has 18 points, while Saravanan has 39 on the penultimate day of the Musana Open, which is a joint qualifying event for Asia and Africa. In sailing, the competitor who has the fewest points wins the race.
Thursday’s final race is 20 points and Kumanan has already sealed it with another round. Laser Radial is a one-handed boat, which means that only one person sails with it.
“Yes, Kumanan qualifies for the Tokyo Olympics with a race that will take place on the last day on Thursday,” Asian Sailing Federation President Malaw Schroff told PTI.
“The final race is 20 points, but the point difference with its closest Asian rival, also an Indian, is more than 20,” said Schroff, who himself represented India at the 2004 Athens Olympics.
Dutch Emma Charlotte Jana Savelon is currently in second place, ahead of Saravanan, just three points behind Kumanan, but she is nowhere on the stage to qualify for the Olympics since the event, as it is an Asian qualifier.
“Nethra qualifies for the Olympics today, with a big lead in points; however, the event will officially end tomorrow, after the last race called the Medal Race,” said her Hungarian coach Tamas Eshes.
“… the result of the medal race will not change the fact that she managed to get one of the places (from the Olympic quota) (out of 2)”, he added.
Ezes is a two-time Olympian. Schroff said the event in Oman was held under the auspices of the Asian Sailing Federation. Kumanan will be the tenth Indian to qualify for the Olympic sailing race, but all the previous nine are male athletes.
Nachhatar Singh Johal (2008), Shroff and Sumeet Patel (2004), F Tarapore and Cyrus Cama (1992), Kelly Rao (1988), Dhruv Bhandari (1984), Soli Contractor and AA Basith (1972).
Schroff said Kumanan is the only Indian so far to have reserved a place for a direct quota, ranking a ranking, while all the previous nine Olympians have done so, receiving quotas that cannot be filled.
“All nine of us were nominated. I was in the 21st rank and only 20 had to compete in the Olympics in my event. Someone dropped out and so I got it because I was first on the waiting list.
“She is the first Indian, man or woman to qualify directly by reserving a quota in qualifying.”
He added that two other Indians were still battling to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics on Thursday’s final day. One of them is Ganapathy Kelapanda Chengappa, who is at the top of the 49er class table on the penultimate day.