For the last 22 years, Shiva Keshavan has been a part of the Indian contingent for the Winter Olympics and a few days back, he made his final appearance. There was no extensive coverage or extravagant government grants for him.
Time and again, we talk about young athletes who have to battle the odds in order to represent the country at the world stage and win medals. There are issues with our infrastructure, coaching and the apathy of our government officials add to this trouble.
For Keshavan, government funding was approved only in December last year giving him approximately 45 days for training.
His approval for government funding — “a very new feeling for me” — came in December, after Keshavan turned to Twitter.
In 2002, he got an offer he just could not refuse. Italy offered him a chance to compete under their banner. Thanks to his Italian mother, Rosalba, he would have qualified to compete for the European country, a nation which takes luge seriously. He would have to abandon his country for better prospects but Keshvan had some other plans.
He refused. Rejected the offer out of hand. Didn’t even consider it as he wanted to only represent India.
To realise Keshavan’s achievement, you need to look at the fact that no other Indian athlete has been able to make it to the Winter Olympics for the second time in their careers.
According to the Indian Express, his story about getting into the sport is nothing short of a fairy-tale. The International Luge Federation took notice and pushed to include more far-flung, warm-weather countries in the Winter Games.
A team, led by Austrian world champion Gunther Lemmerer, set up a scouting camp in Panchkula and discovered a talented young skier from Manali who had little trouble rolling down the roads on a sledge with wheels. He was taken to Austria and a year later, Shiva Keshavan, 16, became the youngest Olympian in luge at the Nagano Winter Games.
He arrived in Vancouver for 2010 Games with his solitary sledge, and a bone in his back, broken. Adding insult were the mismatched, lousy uniforms sent for the Indian contingent. A local sporting goods manufacturer donated uniforms while five Supreme Court lawyers pooled Rs 4.5 lakh to help him buy a new sledge.
In an interview, Keshavan said
“There’s no other country in the world which has the natural resources for winter sports like India. There are 3,000km of Himalayan mountains. Experts from all over the world dream of coming to India to practice. Why are we not working on infrastructure so that our kids can take on the world? Look how removed Himachal, Kashmir, Uttarakhand and North East are from your Delhi’s and Bombays. Why can’t we use winter sports, a multi-million dollar industry, as a means of development?”
Keshavan will leave the sport as Asia’s fastest man and India’s only six-time Winter Olympian.
Source: Daily Social