Puducherry, Feb 4 (IANS) Sailing may be at a very nascent stage in India, but when we listen to this teenaged sensation — Harshita Tomar, who recently clinched the Laser 4.7 category title in the four-day Bonjour India international regatta — we get a feel that the country might witness a bright Lone Ranger in the sport.
Sixteen-year-old Harshita bounced back from a rough start in her opening round, where she got herself discarded, and picked herself up brilliantly in the successive rounds to clinch the title in her category at the recently-held “Sailing The East Coast” event here.
With the regatta done and dusted, Harshita has now shifted her focus to qualifying for the Asian Games in Jakarata in August.
“I am now looking forward to qualifying for the Asian Games and make my country proud. The dates for the trials aren’t out yet but will probably be held in the next couple of months,” Harshita told IANS here.
“The focus is on qualifying for the Asian Games, for which I have been waiting for the last four years. There is a lot of competition in my category Laser 4.7, specially from Bhopal, Chennai and Pune,” she added.
Asked about the level of competition from other nations, Harshita said: “Among the Asian countries, Singapore and China will be tough competitors. China not only prepares one set of sailors, it has also a good bench strength coming up every season.”
Taking a look back to her journey in the sport, the youngster said she started her career as a swimmer before the Madhya Pradesh government’s talent scouting department spotted her.
“I took up sailing four years ago; before that I was a swimmer from my childhood and participated in various state-level competitions in Madhya Pradesh. Our state government has a policy of scouting for young talent in every discipline, depending on their skills, fitness and potential.
“I was selected for sailing when I came to the sports academy — Directorate of Sports and Youth Welfare — wherein we are provided everything from accommodation to training to coaches. For sailing they were looking for children below 15 years and I was 12, which worked in my favour,” she added.
On being probed about the difference between sailing in inland waters and the sea, Harshita explained the various technicalities of the sport.
“Sailing is a sport which totally depends on wind conditions, and cloud. In Bhopal, we sail in the lakes where we don’t get wind, except during the monsoon. The water is flat there and we don’t have the luxury of the tides which we get in the seas,” she said.
“I practised mostly in the seas off Chennai, and then in Krishnapatnam (in Andhra Pradesh) where I topped in a tournament last year.”
Presented with pristine conditions near Thengaithittu fishing harbour here, a total of 50 sailors from around the world got the opportunity to showcase their skills at the event.
Asked about the importance of participating in such events, Harshita said: “Getting foreign sailors, like the French in this tournament, helps us in fine-tuning our skills. They have their own techniques and there are already some who have competed in many big-ticket tournaments. So it really helps improve our game when we sail with them.”
Harshita received special praise from none other than former Olympian and current French coach Felix Pruvot, who said: “I am very impressed by Harshita in particular. She has got a bright future. She is potentially up there with the best.”
The 37-year-old Felix, however was quick to point out the teenager’s weaknesses, saying she needed to work more on her mental aspect, besides working on her fitness.
“Sailing is a very physical sport. She is very light at the moment and needs to improve her fitness and work on her physique. You need strong legs and arms to be able to do well. You also need to stay cool under pressure.”
(Tridib Baparnash can be contacted at [email protected])