Chennai: R Neelanand of Tamilnadu, one of the promising stars from Tamilnadu Sailing Association recently won two back-to-back Regatta championships held in Telangana.
News Today met with the 13 year-old rising star. He first started talking about how he embarked upon sailing.
“My brother is autistic. Thus, to help him, my parents took him to sailing classes as he would not get hurt in water. I tagged along with him and sometimes I had to sail in order to get him on the boat. That is how I started sailing,” said Neelanand.
Then national coach for India Pete Conway upon seeing his talents had decided to train him immediately. Neelanand was eight years old at that time. He was told to compete at the national level and at the age of nine, he went to 2013 Monsoon Regatta championship held at Hyderabad.
“I was the youngest of the lot. There were 50 sailors and it was scary. I came 35th and disappointed with my efforts, I went to the airport with my parents. There, we got a call stating that I will be receiving an award for youngest achiever. We went back to the place to collect it and it was a big morale boost for me,” he said.
In his second outing, he came 42 out of 80 sailors. When asked about his first coach, the young lad was all smiles. “Pete Conway taught me how to sail professionally. He always said I could do better. It was after that did I start to give a tough run into the national championship. It was because of him I won the under-16 national championship in 2014.”
Neelanand was 10 years when he won his first championship. His proud father Ramakrishnan pitched in to say that his son is under the ‘Champion Development Scheme’ of Tamilnadu government. His parents have made immense sacrifices for him to be able to win his titles. Despite his brother Devanand being autistic, they have not skimped on what he deserves, claims Neel.
When asked about his first time away from the country, the young sailor said, “It was in Hong Kong and it was freezing there. (His mother Sabari Mala interrupts to say that he would come home with his lips burst due to the intense weather). Then I went to Israel and 12 more nations to compete with international sailors.” He said he got confused due to different techniques taught to him by his coaches. ‘Since I do not have a personal coach, I look up to national coaches for training and each one of them taught things differently.
I would take things that would make me a better sailor and leave the rest. It is about using your senses,’ he said.
Like many, he has developed his own style of sailing as the sport is very scientific. Neelanand, said, “People do not realise that the sport is very scientific. We need to take the wind speed, geographic location, water current, viscosity and other things into consideration. I also have a few habits like sailing around the course before the event so that I can get a better view of the course. It is all about planning and executing. My mom is my expert planner and she and I always plan things before race day.”
His planning was evident in his last outing as he was disqualified due to a broken boat and won despite having a hefty 30 points deficit to the top runners.
Neelanand is aiming to move to the next level. “I will be sailing with bigger boats and many champions,” he says in the middle. His aim as of now is to win the 2020 Olympics. He trains at Chennai harbour twice a week.
Speaking about his training, his father said, “He is going to train in foreign countries. I am looking at Greece as an option. However, coach is the most important aspect.”
Finally, when asked if he will make his country proud, Neelanand, said, “I will” and immediately his mother said, “So will his brother Dev who is a rower now.” Dev is training at SRMC at present to achieve at rowing competitions.