A herculean task ahead of Nacchatar Singh Johal

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Beijing, Aug 8 (UNI) The lone Indian sailor Nacchatar Singh Johal has a herculean task ahead of him as he starts his campaign in the Finn category (heavyweight dingy), which includes among others double Olympics champion Ben Ainslie of Britain in the Olympic Yachting competition tomorrow.

Johal is the highest ranked Asian (no 53) on the International Sailing Federation (ISAF) list (ahead of Chinas Zheng Peng who is 57) and made it to the Olympics on the basis of Unused Quota Positions (UQP) allotted by the Federation.

This itself explains where Johal stands as far as the competition is concerned. He got into the Olympics due to several last minute withdrawals.

Johal participated in the Sail Melbourne International Regatta (Melbourne) and Finn Gold Cup (Victoria) earlier this year, finishing 35th and 57th respectively and those were not very encouraging showings.

Despite his low ranking, his participation in the events in Australia helped him prepare well for the Olympics. And according to National sailing Coach Homi Motivala, ''Sailing is a sport where you have to constantly race against higher ranked opponents.'' Johal started with the Laser Class but last year he switched to the Finn category.

In 2004 Athens Olympics, Sumeet Patel and Malav Shroff got the wild card entry but their performance left much to be desired as they were pitted against the world's best yachtsmen in the 49er class.

India first participated in this discipline in the Olympics in 1972 Munich Games. After that Indians failed to qualify for Montreal (1976), Moscow (1980), Atlanta (1996) and Sydney (2000) games.

Johal has got less time to acclimatise then his competitors from the US and Europe, who have already been sailed in Qingdao (the venue), collected data on wind conditions and tides to chalk out their strategy to make the most of race conditions.

It is going to be hard but Johal has no complaints saying, ''after all it is the Olympics, the best and the brightest take part in it he said.'' The Indian says he will give his best so that he can make the best use of the chance he has got albeit a wild card. ''Because not everybody is lucky to take part in the Olympics.'' UNI HSB RAR DS1350 '

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