Taking the rough with the smooth

Taking the rough with the smooth


AGAINST THE TIDE Varun Thakkar and K C Ganapathy (right) picked up a bronze for India in sailing at the Asian Games.

There is always this romantic notion for many, of having the wind in their sails and the spray of the ocean on their faces.

It remains an empty dream for most.

Conversely, there are a fortunate few for whom this is not only a pleasurable exercise but also their vocation.

To shed ambiguity, the activity in question is sailing, a sport that is hugely popular in the western world but still trying to find its footing in India.

After India’s fine showing at the recent Asian Games in Jakarta that perception might begin to change. Enjoying their best result at the quadrennial event in 36 years, the Indian contingent made the journey back home with three medals – one silver and two bronze.

Among the two men sailors who clinched bronze in the 49er event was K C Ganapathy. While his parents are from Kodagu, Ganapathy was born and brought up in Chennai and it is this proximity to the sea that piqued his interest in the sport.

“It all began when my classmate’s dad decided to take a bunch of us sailing. We were an unruly bunch so I guess his main motive was to instil some discipline in us back then. I was probably nine or ten when Navaz uncle decided to take us to the Tamil Nadu Sailing Association and I instantly loved it. I have always been in Chennai so for me being near the sea is normal and sailing stuck on,” reminisced the 22-year-old.

Ganapathy and his partner Varun Thakker were frontrunners in the 49er event but a disqualification in the penultimate round cost them a shot at gold. Looking back at what could have been a historic triumph, Ganapathy said the two were content with just being on the podium.

“Winning the bronze feels amazing in a way because at one point we didn’t think we might be on the podium but looking back, it’s bitter-sweet because we had a very good chance of winning. It was a matter of being disqualified on someone’s word and had things gone differently, a word in our favour could have brought us the gold.

“That aside, there are a lot of things to take away and learn. Neither of us really harbours any regrets because we know we gave it everything we had,” revealed Ganapathy, who had to undergo a shoulder surgery and make a full recovery in the 12-month lead up to the Games.

It hasn’t been smooth sailing for Ganapathy who lost his father a few years ago and considering his decision to enrol in open school, while engaging fully in the sport, the financial burdens have fallen on a single mother. But he insists his family has been supportive throughout and his success has been built purely on their encouragement.

“Dad passed away at the end of 2016 and after that mom has held fort. Dad himself used to encourage me a lot and after his death, my mother has never once asked me to stop sailing. Most single mothers would have asked their only son to help take care of the business (furniture) but she has always told me that sailing is what comes first, so I’ll be eternally grateful for her support.”

Like every sport, sailing isn’t a walk in the park and what makes it harder is the fact that individuals are in a minute-to-minute battle with the elements. For Ganapathy, he enjoys the sport as much as he understands the forces involved and how to deal with them.

“Sailing is a phenomenal sport in my opinion and awesome fun. If I really had to compare it to something, I would say it’s like chess on the water with all the physical work involved. It’s great that you are fighting the elements. At times we are faced with storms when we go out training and conditions are treacherous. The focus required in those situations is so high there is nothing like it. Because it’s a matter of life and death.”

The 49er involves two individuals, both with certain specific job roles. In layman terms, it is like how there is a driver and a navigator in rallying.

The driver is only as good as the navigator and it is no different in sailing. So having a seamless understanding is vital, something Ganapathy says that he is lucky to have.

“Varun and I have been really good friends from when we were kids. You could say we are more like brothers and that really helps working in a partnership. We do have our disagreements at times but to be honest, I could not have done it with someone else.”

After striking bronze in the Asiad, the Chennai lad’s confidence is high but he also understands that the task ahead is not easy. “The ultimate goal is to win an Olympic Gold and the short-term goal will be to qualify for Tokyo 2020. But in general, life changes so quickly that we just want to focus, do what we are and live each day to the fullest.

“We understand there is no shortcut to hard work and we just need to seize the moment.”

However fluctuating the tide may be, with age on his side and an infectiously positive outlook, Ganapathy can be expected to give his all as he tries to seize that moment.

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