If the meek shall inherit the earth, Bijay Kumar Rout’s slice of territory could span a typical sailing course. For years forced to play second fiddle, pitted against his pedagogue Rajesh Choudhary, perhaps the best sailor to emerge from the nation’s shores, there was little the pupil could do.
Master and student have now joined hands, with Choudhary taking over as coach of the Secunderabad-based EME Sailing Association (EMESA). The duo looks set to launch a frontal assault on the Laser National championship that gets underway at Hyderabad’s historic Hussain Sagar on Wednesday.
A two-time title winner at this very lake, only an irksome back can slam the brakes on Rout’s ambitions. One such attack ground his campaign to a halt during the Chennai Coastal Nationals two months ago. In active contention for the overall gold and silver, Rout was way ahead in the 11th and penultimate race, when tragedy struck.
Paralysed by pain, he hung on grimly, aching for the finish line and the comforts of land. Unable to go full steam ahead, his craft limped to a second place finish. Fate had snatched gold and silver, leaving him with a bronze medal.
Following a month and a half of rehab, the demon seems exorcised, at least for the moment. The President’s Cup silver medallist in Istanbul, Turkey, trains hard for the upcoming Hyderabad regatta.
“Rout’s now in peaking zone and prospects of his striking gold seem bright,” says Choudhary, who holds two Asian Games bronze medals.
The pats on the back continue. “Physically he’s primed for the full rig and moving well. International experience in big fleets should hold him in good stead,” Choudhary, an Arjuna awardee adds, cautioning his ward to monitor his multi-tasking skills better.
The ex-body builder brought up in the sport on Bhopal’s lakes by H.M.T. Dilip Kumar a decade ago was egged on further by Milind Prabhu after the fledgling sailor was posted to the Twin Cities. In just two years he was feted with the Most Promising Yachtsman award.
Cutting back to the present, a brimming Hussain Sagar, swollen by recent rains under a densely overcast and sheltering sky, presents a picture-perfect stage for Rout to further fulfil that early promise.