CHENNAI: She won a silver medal in the 49erFX sailing event at the Asian Games. Before and after the trip to Indonesia, it has hardly been smooth sailing for Varsha Gautham. Prior to departure, she had to approach the Delhi High Court to secure passage. After returning with a medal, she finds her name missing from the list of successful athletes, who are being given cash awards by the Tamil Nadu government. Hers is a peculiar case. It’s not that she has no chance of getting it yet.
The 21-year-old will meet officials of the Sports Development Authority of Tamil Nadu (SDAT) on Friday, to find out if her name is going to be considered. So why does Varsha have to wait until her meeting with SDAT officials to find out if she is eligible for Rs 30 lakh (award for silver medallist)? Born and brought up in Chennai, she is a student of Chennai’s MOP Vaishnav College. According to her father Gautham Padmanabhan, because she has been training in Mumbai for two years, the Tamil Nadu Sailing Association (TNSA) has told the Tamil Nadu Olympic Association that she may not be considered.
“My daughter was born and brought up in Chennai. She trains at Aquamarine Sailing Foundation (AMS) in Mumbai since 2016. But she is from Tamil Nadu and has always represented the state. She has been part of the SDAT’s Champions Development Scheme since 2011,” Gautham told Express. “But we have been asked to meet SDAT officials. Until then, we can’t say that Varsha has been denied what she is supposed to get.”
A bronze medallist at the 2014 Asian Games, for which she was rewarded by the Tamil Nadu government, Varsha used to train at the TNSA facilities in Chennai till the 2016 Rio Olympics. After that, she shifted base to AMS in Mumbai.
If TNSA secretary general Sucharita Kamath is to be believed, Varsha is not a member of TNSA, although her father is. According to Yachting Association of India records, she represented AMS at the selection trials in March. “She isn’t a member of TNSA. As an adult, she has to decide who she is sailing for and take membership to represent that club at events. Ever since moving to Mumbai, she has been representing AMS. This is self-explanatory,” said Kamath.
According to the incentives policy of the SDAT, a gold medal fetches Rs 50 lakh, silver Rs 30 lakh and bronze Rs 20 lakh. Sailors KC Ganapathy and Varun Thakkar, who won bronze at the Games, have already been rewarded. So have been other successful Tamil Nadu athletes like the table tennis players, squash players and track and field stars. However, if sources are to be believed, the SDAT might yet consider her name. That’s why she has been asked to present her case with certain documents. For a clearer picture, she and everyone interested will have to wait until Friday at least.