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'The wind will carry us': Katya Coelho becomes first female IQFoiler to qualify for Asian Games

Windsurfer Katya Coelho says she wants to be seen as the Mirabai Chanu or Hima Das of her sport.

The wind will carry us: Katya Coelho becomes first female IQFoiler to qualify for Asian Games

Windsurfer Katya Coelho in action (IG/Katya Coelho)


The Bridge Desk

Updated: 15 Feb 2023 12:03 PM GMT

Katya Coelho took up the sport of windsurfing on the coasts of Goa as a 11-year-old because she loved the feeling of moving with the wind. This week, she became the first female IQ Foil sailor from India to qualify for the 2023 Asian Games. The IQ foil event is a windsurfing class in the sport of sailing.

Katya won gold in the third trial 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 is also the reigning national champion in her sport.

"This is a big moment in my career. I want my sport to be recognised in India, it's a very beautiful sport. I want people to associate me with windsurfing. The struggle is that not many people know about this sport, so no matter how much you do, it's always being sidelined," Katya told The Bridge about the struggles of being the pioneering athlete of a rare sport.

"I look up to people like Hima Das, Mirabai Chanu. I want to become someone like that when it comes to windsurfing. I am not saying this from a gendered perspective, I take males as my competition as well, there have been races when I have been the only girl in an all-male race," she added.

Speaking on the nature of her sport, Katya said, "It's just you and the forces of nature that keeps you moving."

"Windsurfing is a sailing sport, we stand on a boat and we have a sail which moves with the wind, so we move with the wind. The new hydrofoil allows us to kind of fly above the surface of the water because of the pressure being created under the hydrofoil because of the wind," she added.

The 23-year-old athlete is used to having the wind beneath her wings carry her to uncharted territory. She was also the first female Indian surfer to represent India at the 2018 Asian Games too. She also has a silver in the Asian championships 2022 - the first international medal in IQFoil by any Indian. She was also the only Indian female windsurfer to compete in the Youth Olympics in 2014.

This year, the wind has carried Katya Coelho to the Asian Games in the IQ Foil event, made all the more significant as this event is set to make its debut at the Paris Olympics next year.

"My aim is to win gold for India at the Asian Games. As newer sports get recognised in India and receive love and support from fans, we will see more athletes coming up. My journey has already been a gratifying one and became more empowering with ENGN throwing their support behind me to help me train and stay the course," she said.

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