Panaji, Nov 8 (SocialNews.XYZ) Asian Games 2023 Bronze medal-winning windsurfer Eabad Ali of Services Sports Control Board (SSCB) continued his rich vein of form in the 37th National Games Goa as he claimed top spot in all 10 races in the RS:X category to win the gold medal.
Scouted by his employer for Sailing in 2015, the Army man from Ayodhya is focused on building on these results going into the all-important Olympic year to seal his place in Paris 2024.
Eabad never really dreamt of becoming a champion sailor. In fact, he was a keen runner in his youth and wished to represent his country one day in athletics. It was only after joining the army in 2013, did his fortune change.
In 2015, he was scouted by the Indian Army’s Olympic program named Army Achievement, wherein selection trials are conducted in Mumbai for jawans all over India. Athletes who make the cut under this program receive specialised training for their sport year-round and are sponsored to represent India in international competitions.
Eabad was handpicked by his mentor Lt. Col. Ashutosh Tripathi to pursue Sailing due to his physical prowess. He remains grateful to the Indian Army for their support and providing him a platform to achieve his dreams.
The sport of Sailing received a springboard due to the Indian Services’ (Army and Navy) Olympic programme, as the high financial cost of training and equipment renders the sport unaffordable for large sections of society in India. To even get started in the sport, a basic coaching boat costs over Rs. 20 lacs.
“Usually in sailing, you either have to be connected with an organisation willing to support you, or you have to be very rich to afford playing the sport. My family did not have the economic background for me to get here. It’s only because the army has supported me all the way that I’m here.
“I am very happy to win medals for my country and win the National Games gold medal for the Army (Services) today. This gives me a lot of satisfaction to give something back as I know this will make a lot of my seniors happy,” said the 29-year-old, who also received an out-of-turn promotion and several rewards for his Asian Games medal.
Windsurfers rely on their skill of judging and catching the wind to win a race. What is lesser known is the hard yards they put into training every day to keep up with the physical demands of competitive sailing.
Eabad has been competing in the RS:X discipline since 2016, which requires the sailor to combine upper body strength with balance maintained by their lower body. Strength in the forearms and shoulders is required to pump and manoeuvre the sail in response to the gusts of wind, while the sailor uses a dagger board to ride the shifting waves of water.
“Sailing has many disciplines, and the RS:X is to my mind the most demanding one as each race takes between 25-45 minutes to finish. Sometimes, during low winds you have to do pumping (moving the sail in or out in response to the wind and waves) yourself and your heart rate is always over 175. To prepare to compete, I train daily by running and rowing for two hours followed by five hours of practice in the water,” Eabad said about his training regimen.
Following a bronze medal in the Abu Dhabi Asian Championships in 2022 and 2023 Asian Games in Hangzhou, Eabad now wants to make his dream of competing in the Olympics in 2024 come true.
Since RS:X will no longer be present as an Olympic discipline from 2024 onwards, he will now switch to the new IQ foil discipline like most RS:X competitors.
After all, Eabad now wants to leave a legacy and wishes that more young kids take up the sport so India can have an Olympic medal winning sailor in his lifetime.