In conversation with: Rohini Rau, sailing champion


Chennai Metblogs catches up with Rohini Rau, the Women’s Asian Sailing Champion of 2004 along with partner Pallavi Naik, and a long time Chennai resident. She is, in fact, the only gold medal winner from Tamil Nadu for India in sailing! She and Pallavi are also the first girls to win a gold medal for India in sailing.

DA: Rohini, when did you start sailing, and how did the interest begin?
RR: I was born and brought up in Madras, and when I was a year old, my parents took me along when they went sailing at the Madras Yacht Club. I used to happily fall asleep by six in the evening or so in the boat while they were sailing! I started sailing when I was ten in the Optimist Class of sailing boat, smaller and quite stable and easy to handle for beginners. I thoroughly enjoyed it and began sailing regularly. My first race was when I was eleven years old.
DA: So you grew up in Madras. Which school did you go to?
RR: I went to the Chettinad Vidyashram School and passed out in 2004.
DA: What about other interests? Did you have the time for that?
RR: I try and do as much as possible with my time, in addition to sailing. I was the School Captain in my final year. I also swim, and won the Swimming Champion Cup in 2003-04. I also participated in athletics and have won numerous events. I enjoyed playing throw ball and gymnastics at school.
DA: What about cultural activities? Did you participate in any?
RR: Oh yes, that’s something I love to do. I was adjudged the best actress in dramatics in school. I had some early opportunities that were fun and helped me to develop my abilities. For example, I acted in an Italian film shot here in the South when I was twelve years old. I also sang playback for the title song of the Tamil film ‘Three Roses’. I recently acted and sang in one of the lead roles in ‘ Romeo and Julietto’, the Pantomime produced by my mother in December 2006.
DA: What about music or dance?
RR: I learned to play the piano and violin when I was much younger. I also learned to tap dance, as well as jazz ballet.
DA: That’s a pretty packed childhood!
RR: Yes, we were sent off to these classes when we returned from school, as my mom believed that we should have all round exposure in addition to academics. Though it also kept us pretty occupied and out of mischief, I suspect! We just had time to hit the books and go to sleep when we got home. I also learned karate at that time!
DA: I believe you’re doing medicine now?
RR: Yes, I’m in my second year in the MBBS course at the Chengelpattu Medical College, where I was awarded a seat on the sports quota.
DA: Chengelpet? That’s a long way to go everyday. What’s your daily schedule?
RR: I get up at 5.30 AM to catch the 6.30 train from Egmore station. The train ride is like one and a half hours, so I get there around eight AM in time for college. We finish around three or four, depending on the subjects, and I immediately catch the train back. Reach home, change and head out to Fitness One in Alwarpet for a one and a half hour work out. Then return home for dinner and some study till eleven PM when I crash. Then up again at 5.30 AM…… its pretty demanding!
DA: Has it affected your studies, the demands of competitive sailing as well as a course in medicine?
RR: No, not really. In fact, I’ve been able to stay on top of my studies as the college is very supportive, gives me time off and helps me catch up. In fact I have earned distinctions in some subjects, like anatomy, which I love! It is limiting in terms of time though, so I have sent a request to the state government for a transfer to a medical college within Chennai. That request has been pending for a while now…….You see, if I am to be more competitive at the global level, I need to sail more, and to work out more to increase fitness and body mass to sail in high wind conditions. I can’t do this with my current schedule.
DA: Which are some of the significant events you have participated in?
RR: Well… I won gold at the National Optimist Championships for girls in 2000, silver at the Asia Pacific Laser Championship in May 2001, gold at the Junior Nationals in December 2001, silver at the Laser Radial National Championships in August 2003, silver in the Nationals in the women’s category in December 03, gold in the Asian Sailing Championships for girls in 2004 and gold in the Laser Radial National Championship for women in Hyderabad in 2005. I was also the only woman to take part in the National Hobicat Championships, the Hobicat is a class of boat, in Vishakapatnam in August 2006 and came second in the silver fleet.
DA: What about international exposure? Isn’t it really important to get as much international sailing experience as possible to be able to compete at a global level?
RR: Yes, it is critical to get as much exposure and experience as possible at the international level for one to become really competitive. I have participated in some international events such as the Zoom 8 World Championships at Hoorn, Netherlands, the International Sailing Circuit Selections in Kiel, Germany and the 420 World Championships in France. I also trained in Brest, France for a month last year, and leave at the end of January for another month’s training in France this year.
DA: What do you enjoy about sailing?
RR: The fact that you are out there in the elements, and whatever the boat does is in your control as you guide it through. I prefer the class of boats where you sail the ship as then it’s up to you, your skills and how well you man the boat. The optimist is the boat that really groomed me in sailing alone, but now I’m focusing on the Laser Radials which you can also sail alone. I also enjoy sailing boats with a partner where I can crew because I really like to ‘trapeze’, where you’re suspended way outside the boat over the water with a rig and clip attached to a rope from the mast. The idea is to balance the boat while managing a minor sail while the helm steers the boat and manages the mainsail.
DA: So what’s your goal for your sailing career?
RR: My aim is to compete for India in the 2012 Olympics. But a lot has to fall into place for me to be able to do that. More international exposure like the training I’m going to France for at the end of this month. As well as the transfer to a medical college in the city so I can devote more time to training and fitness.
DA: How is it we haven’t heard more about what you’ve achieved in the recent past?
RR: Well, sailing isn’t a popular sport, and I guess it isn’t mainstream because of that. This also seems to reflect the kind of exposure it gets in the media I guess. Tamil Nadu has yet to recognize my achievements, other than grant me a medical seat in the sports quota, for which I am grateful. But its kind of difficult when your own home state doesn’t recognize, award or encourage your performance when you’re putting in so much! I’m sure that if they did, sailing would get a boost, and you would hear a lot more about what I, and other young sailors from Tamil Nadu, are achieving!
DA: What about medicine? What do you want to be when you’re done with sailing?
RR: At this point my focus is on competing in the 2012 Olympics, so I haven’t really thought of what I’d like to specialize in. But there are a number of areas that interest me like orthopaedics, paediatrics and sports medicine. Let’s see….. I also think that by the time I’m ready to focus on medicine, there will be more areas for me to explore as the advances that are taking place in medicine now are quite exciting.

6 Comments so far

  1. Mani (unregistered) on January 16th, 2007 @ 5:25 pm

    Congrats. All the very best for the Olympics. Make India and TN proud.

  2. Pavithra (unregistered) on January 16th, 2007 @ 6:44 pm

    All the best to Rohini Rau.

    And a great interview, David!

  3. MARUTHU PANDIAN (unregistered) on January 17th, 2007 @ 12:28 am

    “sailing boat – Swimming – athletics -playing throw ball – gymnastics -best actress – playback
    piano – violin – tap dance, – jazz ballet – doing medicine – Fitness One”

    I wish i could interview her parents.

  4. david (unregistered) on January 17th, 2007 @ 10:41 am

    I know what you mean Maruthu! She was there during the interview, and due credit must go to her and her husband for the dynamo Rohini has become!


  5. Mani (unregistered) on January 18th, 2007 @ 2:17 pm

    Hello there, I passed out of Anna University main campus in 2202.Although its a good initiative by tamilnadu government to donate seats in medical colleges and engineering colleges (for sports quota) in the state, the sports quota gals/guys never reach the stars. Let me give the example of Kuraleashwaran ace swimmer, who was donated an electronics communications seat in the same college from which I passed out of. He never was in the news after that for swimming. Last thing I heard about him was that he has completely quit swimming. Also dear readers the so called sports quota guys/gals in premier colleges are tennis, sailing, roving (from boat club) and squash players who are from the affluent society. It’s a fact that after joining the premier colleges 90% of them never go back to sports because of the stress. I only wish Rohini does not do that and continues to excel in both the domains. It’s an irony that our government spends so much for the rich people to get them a sports quota seat in premier college only to see them never going back to sporting activities.LOL!

  6. Health Wizard (unregistered) on February 5th, 2007 @ 9:57 am

    Whether there are specialized clinics on sports medicine? WBR LeoP

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