Goa is the land of sun, sand and sea and therefore should be the home to sportspeople for who water sports should not be strange. There have been times when Goa produced its class of swimmers and surfers but the class never grew because there is a divide.
There have been swimmers that have reached far and surfers that have gone further and the selection of the Coelho siblings to represent India at the on-going Asian Games in Jakarta just goes on to prove the extent of talent in hand.
Yet, there appears a block. A block well explained by the story of NehaCorreia.
Neha loved the water from young. She started swimming and moved to diving until an injury forced her out. One day, as she was reading the story of Donald Coelho – the father of Dwayne and Katia – Neha decided to make another splurge in water through surfing.
Neha won the silver medal for Goa during the last windsurfing Nationals held in Goa and believes she has it in her to go far. “ I believe if I got the right coaching , I would be able to go much further then where I have reached. I know I have the talent because I enjoyed surfing from the first day. However, I am equally convinced I cannot go too far without professional coaching,” says Neha.
Neha started windsurfing with Donald at Hawaii beach in Dona Paula and has ever since been a regular visitor. “I usually practise from October. It is not possible to practise during the monsoons. I get tips on windsurfing from Donald and Dwayne. There is no one else around who is able to train me. Coaching in windsurfing has been limited to tips from these two people as I have been unable to asses professional coaching,” avers Neha. “There was Mathew before them. But he is not around any longer,” adds Neha.
Neha is one amongst the six girls who have been representing Goa during the nationals for the last few years. Katia is younger to her but has made it to the Asiad. This fact does not deter or make this surfer from South Goa shy from admitting that she is behind because she cannot have all the facilities her colleague Katya has.
“I am not saying that I am better then Katya nor will it be right to say that Katya is far ahead of me. The truth is I have never been able to get the coaching and services she has and this is what separates the two of us. Unlike them, I have never been able to receive professional training from outside. But, this should not take the credit from them for being able to represent India at the Asiad. What they are doing is marvellous. It only makes me hope that one day I will get the opportunity to receive the training they are receiving,” admits Neha.
Neha is doing her bachelor’s in physical education and is of the opinion that her studies would in no way come in her way to get fame for her country. “ I do not believe that my sports or practising more would come in the way of my studies because what I am studying is related to sports,” admits Neha.
Though from South Goa, Neha is of the opinion that Dona Paul offers her the best practise ground because the launching area is better and the equipment available is better. “I have never thought in terms of looking out for sponsorship because I get a lot of thrill out of wind surfing . My mother has always taught me to enjoy what I am doing and think of the rewards later. I have still not thought of any rewards yet as I am still enjoying what I am doing,” admits Neha.
The Yatching Association of Goa does provide surf boards but Neha is of the opinion that the equipment offered by Donald is better. “The Association could have made better boards available to us. However, the equipment provided by Donald is better,” avers Neha.
“Katya sets a bar for me. I try to reach her level in sport but I normally tend to go to her brother for advise and technique knowledge,” admits Neha.
The race board style is generally dominated in Goa by Katya and Neha with the former having an advantage due to her father’s past glories through surfing.
“I think the situation is improving for us windsurfers with the Navy getting involved now. They are pushing the sport and there is a lot more awareness now about windsurfing because of their approach towards the sport,” says Neha.
“I have never set any benchmark for myself as a windsurfer. I know I enjoy the sport and I have the capabilities to pursue it even more. With just the backing of my mother and the help of Donald I have reached so far. I know I can be a better windsurfer, I just need to be able to find that professional training to realise my full potential,” admits Neha.
‘There is no end point to be able to determine when I will stop. I keep learning something new every time I take the board out. It is my dreams to one day represent India too. For that, I need to get the training to be the best,” observes Neha.