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On the verge of quitting sailing, a national medal changed the trajectory for Neha Thakur
By Saurabh Duggal
Missing the podium at the National Championships for three straight years had forced Neha Thakur to contemplate quitting sailing. The National-level event in Bangalore in 2019 became her last self-ultimatum to make a final decision about her sailing career. She won silver in Bangalore, and from that point onward, there was no looking back. On Tuesday, Neha won a silver medal in the girls' dinghy ILCA-4 event at the Hangzhou Asian Games.
"Neha has made all of us proud. She is the first girl from our village to compete on the international stage, and we hope her medal in the Asian Games will inspire more girls from our area to pursue sports," says proud father Mukesh Thakur, a farmer from village Amaltaj in the Dewas district of Madhya Pradesh.
"I still remember there was a time when she considered quitting the sport because, for three years straight (2016 to 2018), she couldn't win a medal in the national circuit. After the first day during the Bangalore event (2019), she called me in tears, fearing she would return empty-handed again, and she expressed her intention to leave sailing after the Bangalore event. I told her to focus on her next day's race and that she could decide to quit the sport after the race. However, she went on to win silver, and that medal changed her course. Since then, she has won medals in all the nationals."
Inspired by her cousin Vishal, who is also an international sailor, she joined the Madhya Pradesh Water Sports Academy in Bhopal. "Vishal was already at the Bhopal academy, so he motivated me to get Neha into sailing. Except for Bhopal, as there is no other facility of sailing in the entire state, the requirements for enrolling in the academy are physical fitness and swimming skills. So, I taught her to swim in a pond near the village," said Mukesh. "Hangzhou is just the beginning for Neha as she is only 17, and we hope to see her continue to make the country proud in the future."