CHENNAI: It is a historic moment for sailing. On Thursday, Nethra Kumanan (Laser Radial), Vishnu Saravanan (Laser Standard Class) and the pair of Ganapathy Chengappa and Varun Thakkar (49ers) qualified for the Olympics for the first time. Jitendra Dixit, joint secretary of Yachting Association of India (YAI), feels getting inducted into Target Olympics Podium Scheme would really help them in their preparation. Since sailing is an expensive sport, it needs government support. In an interview with TNIE, Dixit also spoke on the achievement. Excerpts:
On this being a historic moment.
It's a major achievement for Indian sailing. This is the first time sailors have qualified for the Olympics. Last time we went to the Olympics was in 2008 through a quota. After the quota system and nominations was stopped, we did not go. Never ever three teams, even through quota, had gone to the Olympics earlier. So it's a historic occasion for us. That too in difficult Covid-19 conditions.
On logistical issues.
Logistically we were in trouble because the boats were stuck in Dubai. In February last year, the team was recalled through government order because of Covid. So the boats were left there. We thought the event would take place some two-three months later. But it didn't.
This year the event was scheduled in February in Abu Dhabi, so we were thinking teams would go there and also thought of shipping some more equipment because we were not sure if the equipment would be in good shape. The container was in Mumbai Port ready to be loaded on ship. Then Abu Dhabi event was cancelled and shifted to Oman. The notice was so short we couldn't send anything. We had to
transport the equipment from Abu Dhabi to Oman by road. Now the equipment will go back to Abu Dhabi by road and then it will be shipped back to India. This is because our import and export clearance is from Abu Dhabi.
On inclusion of athletes in TOP Scheme.
We will now request the sports ministry and the Sports Authority of India (SAI) to include us in the TOP Scheme because the sport is expensive. A 49er cost is Rs 35 lakh. Hope with this qualification, people will recognise and will support the sport. To be included in the TOP Scheme would help the athletes train better.
On contracts of foreign coaches.
Right now the contract is only with Tomasz Januszewski, the foreign national coach of the team. But yes, we would like to hire foreign coaches. We have had good performances in Asian Games, where we have been winning medals. Getting a foreign coach is too expensive. With this result we should be able to hire more foreign coaches. If our sailors are included in TOP Scheme, then definitely each category will get a different coach.
We have been funded through SAI’s ACTC, but the funding is restricted. It's all-inclusive of foreign exposure, domestic competitions, foreign coach and Indian coach's salary… budget is fixed. Equipment is very expensive. Foreign exposure in sailing is also expensive. One or two boats don't help. You need it in numbers. For Indian events we don't take money from the government but manage with local sponsors and entry fees. Army and Navy purchase their own boats and majority of our sails.
On recognition issues.
Recognition was only due to a petition in the court. From the ministry and SAI, there were no issues. We understand our problem and we follow the 2011 sports code in all aspects. We are not being able to comply with the rule that says 75 per cent of states associations should be affiliated to the national body.
That means we should have around 28-29 state-UTs as associations. But there are no water bodies for sailing in so many states. Caveat is that 50 per cent districts units should be part of state units. So that's an issue. We have explained it to the sports ministry and SAI. They understood our problem and we are
getting annual recognition.
There are restrictions in membership also. They have to adhere with minimum requirements and certain memberships need to be there. Also, we have to make the sport safe. So certain standard needs to be there. Apart from the government, I must say the support of parents in the sport is huge.