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India win three medals in sailing at Asian Games

Jakarta: India clinched three medals in sailing with Varsha Gautham and Sweta Shervegar clinching silver in the 49er FX Women’s event and Harshita Tomar claiming bronze in the Open Laser 4.7 at the 18th Asian Games here on Friday.

Varun Thakkar Ashok and Chengappa Ganapathy Kelapanda won bronze with a total of 53 after race 15 in the 49er men’s event. The 20-year-old Varsha and 27-year-old Sweta combined to produce a total score of 40 after 15 races to finish second at the Indonesia National Sailing Centre. 16-year-old Harshita totalled 62 after race 12 to finish third.

“It is a great feeling to win a medal for the country. I can’t explain it. It has been a great learning experience for me,” Harshita, a former swimmer, said after winning the medal. Govind Bairagi finished fourth in the Open Laser 4.7, while Nethra Kumanan finished fifth place in Laser Radial Sailing event.

Varsha and Sweta were initially not chosen by the Yachting Association of India to represent India in 49erFX event and only after a court battle, they reached the Indonesian capital.

“These were stressful three months. But everything has paid off. There were a lot of up and down. A lot happened. At least 10 times I thought, it’s not worth it, I can’t handle it but somehow I continued. It was certainly not glamorous race, there was pressure,” Varsha said.

“And there was a realistic chance of losing today, but we stayed clam,” Varsha said, adding that they needed donations and crowd funding to pursue their passion. Varsha and Sweta, who is a medicine student and was a sailing coach before teaming up with her partner, were not selected by the federation for the Asian Games since they had lost the trials to Ekta Yadav and Shaila.

But, after the pair won a silver at the Asian Championship ahead of the preferred team, Varsha argued that she and Sweta should be considered for the Asian Games, since the Asian Championship was a better platform to judge capability. When YAI refused to change the nomination, Varsha approached the Delhi High Court, which asked the IOA to choose team. Eventually they were in the team and ended as silver medallists.

Sweta, who suffered a cut on her hand and required stitches two days before the race, said the friendship between her and Varsha helps them in sailing. “We eat together, we shop together. Yesterday we went shopping we had an off day,” the 27-year-old said. Varsha said the sport is not only demanding physically but requires immense mental strength. “Physically you may be strong but you have to be mentally in. There is a lot of pressure and risk.

Going into the last race, there was a realistic chance to miss out on medal. We could have been penalised, boat could have capsized,” she said. “We are using the Olympic class boats first time. When I was in Incheon, those boats were youth class and less demanding.” Sweta said for a layman, it could appear dangerous, but it is fun in the water.


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