New Delhi: In a historic first for India, four sailors from the country will compete at this year’s Olympics after Vishnu Saravanan and the pair of Ganapathy Chengappa and Varun Thakkar made the cut for Tokyo at the Asian Qualifiers in Oman on Thursday.
This was after Nethra Kumanan on Wednesday became the first Indian woman sailor to qualify for the Olympics in the laser radial event in the Mussanah Open Championship, which is an Asian Olympic qualifying event.
It is also the first time that India will compete in three sailing events in the Olympics.
So far, India had competed in only one event in all the earlier Olympics though two sailors represented the country on four occasions.
“Yes, history has been scripted. Four Indian sailors have qualified for Olympics to compete in three events. It’s the maximum number of sailors qualified and also in number of events,” Yachting Association of India joint secretary general Capt Jitendra Dixit told PTI.
Tomasz Januszewski, the Indian sailing coach, said it was a result of “years of hard work by sailors, their parents and coaches.
“Sincere congratulations to our champions for creating this historic day and taking Indian sailing to a whole new level,” he told PTI from Oman.
He also thanked the Sports Ministry, the Sports Authority of India and the Yachting Association of India for constant support.
“I personally hope that it is the start of a new era in Indian sailing. Sailors and the community behind them are amazing. It is time for them to become recognised and start shining, locally and internationally,” Januszewski added.
On Thursday, Saravanan was the first to qualify for the Tokyo Games in Laser Standard Class after finishing second in the overall standings.
Later, the duo of Chengappa and Thakkar finished on top of the points table in the 49er Class. The two had won a bronze medal in the 2018 Asian Games in Indonesia.
“I congratulate Indian athletes Nethra Kumanan, KC Ganapathy and Varun Thakkar who have qualified for Tokyo Olympic in sailing. I’m particularly proud of the quota of Nethra, who is India’s first-ever female sailor to qualify for the Olympics!” tweeted sports minister Kiren Rijiju.
Two sailors make a team in the 49er Class while laser class is a single sailor event.
Also, two sailors qualify for Tokyo Olympics from laser class events while only one team can do so in the 49er class.
Saravanan was third till the penultimate day on Wednesday but won the medal race on Thursday to jump to second place overall with 53 points and book a Tokyo Olympics quota.
“Our athletes are making a mark in all disciplines!” Rijiju said.
The Indian pipped Thailand’s Keerati Bualong (57 points), who was second till Wednesday, for the Tokyo Games spot.
Singapore’s Ryan Lo Jun Han (31 points) was first overall in the Laser Standard Class table.
“Till Wednesday, Vishnu was third behind the Thai sailor though both were on same points. Today in the medal race, Vishnu finished first and so naturally he ended above the Thai sailor in points table,” Dixit said.
“Two sailors qualify for Olympics in laser class and Vishnu finished second. The Singapore sailor was well above Vishnu before today and so Vishnu could not dislodge him (from top position).”
Kumanan finished sixth in the laser radial class medal race on Thursday but still ended at second overall with 30 points to confirm the Olympics spot.
Dutchwoman Emma Savelon (29 points), who finished fourth in the medal race on Thursday, topped the standings but she can’t be considered for the Asian qualifying spot.
Stephanie Norton of Hong Kong, who finished third overall, also qualified.
There have been four instances of two Indian sailors qualifying for the Olympics earlier but they took part in the same event.
The Indian pair of Farokh Tarapore and Dhruv Bhandari competed in the 470 class in the 1984 Olympics. Tarapore and Kelly Rao took part in the same event in the 1988 Games.
Tarapore — in his third Olympics — and Cyrus Cama took part in the same 470 class in the 1992 Barcelona Games before Malav Shroff and Sumeet Patel competed in 49er class skiff in the 2004 Athens Olympics.