New Delhi: Things will be heating up this winter as India’s winter sports pioneer and 5-time Olympian Shiva Keshavan begins his quest with an eye on the 2018 Olympic Winter Games in Peyongchang, South Korea.
Keshavan, who has won all of the 6 international medals for India in Winter Sports to date is currently preparing for the International Luge Circuit that will see him compete in 3 World Cups where he will be looking to make his mark again. The season’s peak event for India will be the Asian Championships in Nagano, Japan on the 21st of December where Keshavan will aim to reclaim the Gold medal after settling for silver behind Japan’s Hidenari Kanayama at the last edition of the continental Championship in 2013. The 2014-15 race season will culminate in the World Championships in Sigulda, Latvia in February 2015.
Keshavan, hailed as the fastest man is Asia in the Limca Book of Records at 149.9 km/h will however be missing out on 5 World Cup berths this winter due to lack of funds as the government has not supported the country’s winter sports star so far this year.
This winter could potentially be a turning point with Ex-Technical Director of the US Luge Team and winner of 21 World titles, Duncan Kennedy, taking up the role of full-time Coach and Technician for Shiva for the next four years. This will be the first time in 18 years of representing India that Shiva will have a personal Coach.
Although there has been no word from the Sports Ministry on whether they will be supporting Shiva by helping him get a full-time Coach, the Indian Luge Team is firming up their plans for the next 4 years together. The plans have received a decisive boost with the New York based Clarkson University offering technology support to the Indian team. Clarkson University is renowned for their engineering and research ability and they have proposed to assist Team India with aerodynamic simulation through Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) – running simulations on the computer to improve equipment design. Kennedy and Keshavan are also supported by a team of Indian engineers and OEM manufacturers, who are manufacturing certain precision components in India to shave off the 0.8 second needed for an Olympic gold.
“We want to achieve a ‘Made in India’ sled to showcase our technological capability. For that we are looking for collaborations from some of India’s top technology and manufacturing firms.
There are three fundamentals requirements for us to convert our existing Asian accomplishments to World and Olympic levels: Adequate training and exposure to competition, expert and dedicated coaching and cutting edge technology in the equipment”, said Keshavan from Lake Placid where he is currently undergoing training with Kennedy at the Olympic Training Centre and Luge Track.
The Luge pilot is hopeful that the Sports Ministry will adopt efficient and transparent systems that enable and not hinder athletes from competing for India. He submitted the proposal for funding to the Ministry in August this year, while he is simultaneously waiting on the release of sanctions for last year’s funds to be released. “ If a 5-time Olympian, 2-time Asian Champion, with 6 international medals in his kitty, has to beg the Government for funds each year, there is something really wrong in our system and it needs to be seriously looked into”, said Shiva over the phone.
The recently convened meeting of the National Sports Development Fund (NSDF) did initiate the Towards Olympic Podium Scheme (TOPS) that aims to help prospective medal winners for the 2016 and 2020 Olympics. However, no mention has been made for the 2018 or 2022 Olympic Winter Games, although India has had consistent representation in the Winter Games since 1998.