India’s first female IQFoiler and windsurfer Katya Coelho, who almost booked her spot to represent the country at the 2023 Asian Games after winning the two rounds of Selections Trials for the IQ Foil, is leaving no stone unturned in her preparations for the continental event.
Katya won gold in the IQ Foil Women’s Class at YAI Senior Nationals in the 2nd round of Asian Games Selections Trials for the IQ Foil Category held at INWTC, Mumbai. She has also won gold at Senior Nationals and 1st round of Asian Games Selection Trials for the IQ Foil Category.
The 23-year-old international windsurfer has won 2 medals at the Asian Open Championship in 2015 and over 10 national gold medals and also has a silver in the Asian championships 2022 — the first international medal in IQFoil by any Indian. She was also the first female Indian surfer to represent at Asian Games 2018.
Katya, who is the only Indian female windsurfer to compete in the Youth Olympics in 2014, in an interaction felicitated by ENGN on Monday, revealed about her journey, Asian Games preparations and more.
Q. How and when did you get into windsurfing?
A. My father (Donald Coelho) is a windsurfer himself and he has represented India also in a championship before. So, when my father started sailing and when he used to participate in nationals, my mom used to take us — me and my brother and my sister — to watch these races. I used to sit and watch and I was very excited to ask my father, after the race, how his experience was and what he saw in the ocean? And how was he able to move faster than the rest? Then eventually, my father started training my brother and when I saw both of them, I really felt like trying it out myself. So that is how I got into the sport.
Q. When did you first compete in Nationals and What was your first international experience?
A. I started competing in the National the year I started actually, because we used to have these summer camps I remember. In April, a summer camp started and In May, we had All Goa board sailing Nationals. So that is what I used to take part in. First I was taking part in the state level and eventually the Nationals. Then, I went on to represent India at a couple of Asian championships.
The first biggest competition that I’ve been to and I’ve qualified for was the Youth Olympics. That was a really big competition that you know for me and that age. I was the youngest sailor competing as I was just 14 at that time.
Q. How’s the training for the Asian games going?
A. The training is going well. Actually, I landed in Bombay this morning itself and I’m going out training for my third Asian Games trial round. I have won two already and I look forward to doing well at this one. So, the training is going well. We’re training morning and evening, two sessions in a day. Hopefully, after this event is done, I plan on doing the European circuit. I plan on training in Europe for the Asian Games.
Since the category has changed so it’s not been surfing anymore, it’s been foiling now that I’m doing it. I need to be working a lot in the gym as well. Because I need to gain muscle weight. So, this is something that is special, and has changed in my training. Before this, I was always working on my endurance training and cardio and liked to lose weight. But now the whole game is changed. I need to be lifting very heavy weights.
Q. Over a period of time have you noticed any positive change related to the popularity of the sport?
A. Oh yes, of course. Initially when I started, there were not many people or children also involved in this sport. It was mostly men and very few women. Eventually, a lot of kids started getting involved in this sport. Over the years, I have been seeing a lot of new suffers and more sailors getting into this sport. It is definitely growing.
Q. Who are your inspirations?
A. I really like Sania Mirza’s journey, PT Usha to name a few and Hima Das. These are the people that I follow and I inspired to be something like them because they have really made a mark in their respective careers. They’ve made a benchmark for themselves and that’s what I plan to do in my sport. When you think of Tennis, you instantly think of Sania Mirza. And there is PV Sindhu, as soon as you hear their name, you think of this sport and that is the benchmark I want to set in India for windsurfing.
Q. What are you looking forward to from your association with ENGN?
A. Well, it’s a fairly new association and I’m really excited to join the team. It is not just managing talent it’s also supporting female athletes. They kind of give us this salary, not just for me, but for the other athletes, as well. Being an athlete sometimes it’s so mentally tough because you’re constantly competing and sometimes you need a mentor and that is what they offer.