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Smooth sail to success

Sailing gives me a feeling of independence, says Rohini Rau who won a gold medal at the Asian Sailing Championship


BHARATANATYAM. TAP dancing, jazz, ballet, piano, gymnastics, athletics, kho-kho, throwball, theatre, poetry and music — there is a little bit of Rohini in each of these and a lot of her in sailing.

Rohini Rau, 17-year old, class XII student of Chettinad Vidyashram, won the gold for India at the recently concluded Asian Sailing Championship in Mumbai. Being the first Indian woman to have won a gold medal in sailing, she says, "I have always won silver, but this time I broke that record."

Rohini started sailing at the age of 11 and was among the first four girls to have joined the sailing association. "Initially I had to literally draw a boat and the sail to make people understand that it is entirely different from rowing. I am happy there is more awareness now," says this school captain.

The uniqueness of the sport seems to have attracted Rohini. "Sailing cannot be compared to any other sport. Besides the tough physical activity, like a game of chess there is a lot of thinking and planning involved too."

However, what Rohini enjoys the most is when the cool breeze and water caresses her face as the boat drifts along. Sailing also gives her a feeling of independence.

"I was 14 years old when I competed in the Optimist Category and won a silver medal in my first nationals in Mumbai in 1999. When I went for my first competition, I felt extremely home sick. Unlike in other races, in sailing, the champion is decided after 10 races. So you have to be consistent throughout. My dad, Jayaraj Rau, has been a great source of inspiration. While my mother, Aysha, a former sailor herself is my role model," says the young girl.

Rohini sailed the 420-class boat at the Asian Sailing Championship. "I was the lone crew member and Pallavi Naik from the Goa Yachting Association (GYA) was at the helm. We made a good team though we first sailed together only during the trial sessions in Mumbai." Fourteen countries participated in the championships and Rohini's team bagged the gold. "Until the last day we were not sure about winning. It was a very close and challenging contest as we were pitched against the formidable Singapore team."

"Exciting and great fun it is. There are risks involved too. For instance, if the boat capsizes, you should have the strength to bring it back to position. We are taught capsize drills at the club, but a good swimming knowledge and the ability to never let go of the boat really help," says Rohini.

She trains at the Tamil Nadu Sailing Association (TNSA) under the guidance of Munna Jamal. Rohini is also supported by the Tamil Nadu Sports Development Authority under its `Future Champions Programme'.

Right now, she is concentrating on academics (XII board exams). Then there are other championships to be won — Laser Coastal Nationals and Optimist Coastal Nationals. However her ultimate aim is the Olympics. "I want to represent India at the 2008 games. With hard work, I guess, nothing is impossible."

PRASSANA SRINIVASAN

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