Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Rohini Rau the Sailing Star

If you thought intense sport and glamour doesn’t go together – think again! If you thought Indian woman and the gritty world of international sailing can’t meet – think again. If you thought beauty and brains don’t merge – think again. For Rohini Rau defies all preconceived notions.

A self confessed ‘smiling’ expert, standing tall even without heels the only moment she is not dazzling the world with her smile and energy is when Rohini is focusing hard on the next marker buoy as she zips across the world riding the waves of the oceans with the finesse of a ballerina and the strength of a lioness.

Meet the new poster girl of Indian Sports Rohini Rau from Chennai whose accomplishments and diverse talents can set anyone thinking if it’s really possible to put in so much in one’s life. A 3rd year MBBS student, she has won medals in swimming and athletics and is an adept in disciplines like handball, kho-kho, Yoga and snow-boarding. Rohini is also a seasoned actor and danseuses (both western and Indian forms) and has been playing the piano and violin from her early days.

She started competitive sailing at 11 and after 12 years with two Asian Gold medals and 10 gold medals and five silvers in the nationals Rohini is the top woman sailor India has ever produced in its history. She has represented India in five major world championships. Rohini is the first Indian woman to win an international medal in an Olympic class Laser Radial - Bronze at Izola Spring Cup, Slovenia Grade 3 event. With her present ISAF ranking of 152, Rohini is India’s first woman Olympic hope in sailing.

A youth icon and role model to millions of her fans, Rohini has single handedly pushed the boundaries of woman sports to heights never thought possible before. Here’s a freewheeling tête-à-tête with Rohini Rau from Australia where she is currently training with some of the best coaches in the world and doing what she does best – smiling and sailing, in that order.

1. In a top level competition what is going on in your mind, heart as you prepare your rig; just before you hit water? Is it the same each time?

A1. A sailing regatta comprises of a series of 10 -12 races. Each race is an hour each and we sail up to three races a day. Every sailor sails all the races and is scored based on the order they cross the finish line (a low point scoring system) so the person with the least number or points wins. So every race is important, although you are allowed to drop your worst score. I find that on the first day of racing I am very restless, and am usually of the first people dressed and in the water. It is a mind game, so I am working on being a little more relaxed and being cool around the boat park.

2. You are a multi-talented person; trained pianist, dancer, choreographer and now doctor in making, while you have so much talent in such diverse fields how did sailing happen? Did you always know that one day you would be a sailor?

A2. I was thrown into sailing after taking part in a summer camp at the age of 9. I thought sailing was just a hobby, I didn’t know that there were national championships until I was asked to take part in one in Mumbai. I pick up things very fast and I guess I had a knack for sailing as it is an adventure sport and I was a tomboy growing up. It was a perfect blend of mind and body. You need to be smart to sail as you have to understand the wind, water and apply tactical knowledge as well. It is not your average straight line race. So I love the challenge… a game of chess with a lot of physical activity. Sailing was my weekend activity until my 10th standard, where I realized that I did not have time to do everything. That’s when I chose sailing… and I continue to balance it out with my studies.

3. Every time you lose a race or don’t perform up to your expectations or maximum what do you tell yourself? In your regular life you are a fun loving, cheerful college girl, which is again full of ups and downs. How do handle failures and crisis?

A3. I believe in the saying that ‘Everything happens for a reason and usually it is for the best. But sometimes Shit Happens ‘. There were a lot of hurdles, but I think they have made me stronger and steered me in the path that I follow now. I find that I perform the best when I am not under pressure. I also believe in positive thinking, ‘The race is not over until you cross the finish line’.

4. You have been often called the Indian Youth Icon. Tell us five distinct advantages of being a girl youth icon.

A4. 1) I think it proves to India that you can pursue a sport and do a professional degree
2) If you believe in yourself anything is possible
3) Encourage more boys and girls to take up this wonderful sport of sailing
4) That there are sports apart from cricket that need India’s support
5) The pride of every country is how they fare at the Olympics.

5. Your top five movies and books (with one line reason for each).

A5. Right now ‘ Avatar’ is my favourite movie. I think James Cameron is a genius.
Loved 3 idiots, also the book by Chetan Bhagat ‘5 point someone’
Da Vinci Code – Book and the movie. I love mysteries and the way they get solved.
The movie – ‘Perfume’ was very interesting.
Anastasia - the movie, Well I am a Disney fan :D
Books – ‘the Secret’ by Rhonda Bryne is a very positive book.
Lance Armstrong’s biographies are a huge inspiration.
I loved the Harry Potter and Twilight series.

6. If you could transform yourself into another individual (from any era, any gender) just for a day, who would it be and why? Top three things you would wish to achieve in that single day.

A6. I guess, Gandhiji or someone with as much power…
After fighting for independence I would have loved to support and encourage more people to participate in sport, especially the women. Fight against sex trafficking and corruption

7. Your top three dreams you wish to realize (besides World No 1 ranking and Olympic Gold).

A7. 1) To finish my MBBS course, become a sports doctor and start an exclusive Health Center for Sportspeople in India
2) Become the first Indian woman sailing at the Olympics
3) Find the sponsors to help me get there and realize my dream. :D

8. Your most embarrassing moment (or one of them if there is more than one). What happened?

A8. I think I was in 4th grade and we went to a water theme park for a school excursion. After swimming, we went to change and I couldn’t find my pinafore… luckily for me I had a pair of tights! It was still embarrassing to walk around in my shirt and tights. I later found that another girl had taken mine because she had lost hers.

9. Who is your idol and inspiration for life in general and why?

A9. My brother Ajay Rau – he was an obese kid growing up and had to work 10 times harder than me to achieve anything. Be it in studies or sport. I saw him lose 30 kilos, when he finally deiced to take up sailing seriously. He didn’t diet… he just worked out really hard under Ramji Srinivas. When it came to sailing, he would go practice on his own. It’s something I really admire, his determination and motivation. He pushes me to do better.

10. In real life you come across as a very down to earth and humble person. Despite all laurels and adulation how do you keep yourself grounded?

A10. I think my family plays a very important role in keeping everything in perspective. I grew up to believe that I was not any greater than anyone else around me, as I was sure that there was at least one thing he or she might be better at than me.

11. Despite all odds that you have faced and continue to face how do you keep yourself so motivated and charged up?

A11. It is hard; I am a very people person so it gets difficult when I have to motivate myself to do things alone. But I find ways to push myself. And I think when people put me down or make it hard for me, that is motivation enough to help me prove them wrong.

12. Do you ever consciously think of failure? If so, what do you exactly think? Do you take failures as a friend or a foe?

A12. I don’t think of failures, I would not like to attract that sort of thing. By just thinking of it, you have already failed. I like to remain positive. I don’t look at them as failures, like I said it happens for a reason and something better will come out of it

13. Reveal one secret of Rohini Rau that no one else in the world knows.

A13. I acted in an Italian science fiction film called ‘Gills’ at the age of 12, I also sang playback for a Tamil film ‘Three Roses’ – the title track

14. Describe briefly a typical day in your life away from competition and training.

A14. Wake up at 5 30 am, to catch a 6 am train to Chengalpet Govt. Medical College that is an hour and a half away. Come back home at 5 pm, rush to the gym to work out for an hour and a half, back home at 8pm, dinner and sleep 

15. What do you do; where do you go when you feel like taking a break from the world?

A15. I love dancing! So it is either going dancing with friends or stay at home and spend time with myself or close friends. I recently went to Goa for 5 days… it was definitely a break from the world. I came back fully refreshed.

16. Tell us about one of your breathtaking moments in life.

A16. It would have to be this New Year’s Eve, standing at the newly redone Marina beach in Chennai with the moon in the middle of the sky with its silvery reflection in the water. With the sound of the waves and wind, it was certainly breath taking.

17. Why is Rohini perpetually smiling? It appears that you must be smiling even while asleep. What’s the secret of your perennial happiness?

A17. Well my mom used to tell me that as a baby, when I woke up the first thing I did was smile  I guess I have nothing to be sad about… I have a wonderful family who supports me, I am doing what I really love – sailing, I enjoy my medical course, my friends and travelling the world. I guess I have lots of reasons to smile.

18. If you had the choice of taking any one man in the entire world (past or present) out on a date, who will it be and why? Where will you take him?

A18. Roger Federer – I guess I would take him sailing around New Zealand… and talk about anything other than tennis! As I am sure he talks about it enough.

19. In a rigorous sport like sailing the physical training you undergo is easy to grasp but what about your mind! How do you train your mind?

A19. It takes loads of experience to understand the wind and water. As the playing field is never the same in any venue you go to. I read a lot of books on sailing, tactics, meteorology and motivational books. They certainly help condition my mind. There is also a rule book that we need to know to help with our racing strategies.

20. Do you believe in God? Do you carry any lucky charm with you while racing?

A20. I do believe in God, but not religion. I do thank him when ever something good happens and I seek his blessings before any big event. Right now I wear a ‘ KORU’ which is a Mauri charm from New Zealand made of cow bone that symbolizes – ‘ harmony and a new beginning’

21. Have you ever wished to be anyone other than Rohini Rau? If so, who!

A21. Nah! I am really happy with who I am at present and possibility of who I might become. Like I said I couldn’t ask for a better life. Maybe a few sponsors would definitely make like a lot easier for my parents, as it is they who fund a lot of my Olympic Campaign

My email id is rohinirau@gmail.com
I am based in Chennai
ISAF World Ranked 152 in the Laser Radial class


  1. Fair Winds! Rohini! Very well written, Satyabratadam......

  2. Hello mr.dam I am Nitya from riversdie school. You are coming to our school so thats great and will see you

  3. U definitely take and give excellent interviews by dear S. xxoooxxx

  4. Nice work Rohini, Great job Satyabratadam....