CHENNAI: For the past five months, the sailing camp for the Incheon Asian Games has been taking place in the sweltering climes of the city. It features among its medal prospects, four sailors from Tamil Nadu and another with roots in the State. The teenagers have too much on their plate, having been thrust into the spotlight with the hopes of a nation apparently weighing them down.
However, there are perks to being in such a situation. Most of them either haven’t attended school in the past 6-8 months or are home-schooled. Unlike most cities in India, schools here provide exemption to these youngsters, allowing them to follow their dream. Parents too seem happier, by Indian standards, to let studies take a backseat in their children’s lives.
Chitresh Tatha, 13, the national champion in Optimist class, beams at the mention of school. “I’m a Class VIII student in Bhavan’s Rajaji Vidyashram, Kilpauk,” he smiles. “But I haven’t attended school in eight months. In fact, they’ve even agreed to let me take my half-yearly examinations whenever my schedule permits.”
Nethra Kumanan took up sailing seriously in 2012, and two years hence, she’s part of the Asiad squad in the Laser Radial class. The 17-year-old clocks six hours of practice daily, so it’s hard to do schooling. “I was studying in Class XI in APL Global School in Perungudi, but I’ve been there for just 10 days. So being home-schooled is a better option,” she shrugs.
Varsha Gautham (16) and Aishwarya Nedunchezhiyan (18) — in the 29er class (double-handed) — did open schooling. Varsha completed Class X with 82.4 per cent last year. Aishwarya is an MOP Vaishnav College for Women alumna. She is sponsored under the Elite Athletes Scholarship introduced by Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa, while Varsha is under the National Sports Fund Scheme.
Ramya Saravanan (14), the girls Optimist national champion, may have migrated to the Army Public School in Mumbai, but her family is from Vellore. “I haven’t gone to school since April,” she says.