Four Indians qualify for Sochi Winter Games

New Delhi: They may not take part under the tri-colour due to the suspension of the IOA but four Indians have so far qualified for the February 7-23 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia.

Shiva Keshavan, in luge, Nadeem Iqbal in cross country skiing and Hira Lal and Himanshu Thakur, both in Alpine skiing, have qualified for the Games. Winter Games Federation of India Secretary General Roshan Lal Thakur said that another athlete Aanchal Thakur has also been trying hard to make it to the Games by taking part in qualifying events in Europe.

"Keshavan qualified for the Winter Games last year and he is taking part in the Games for the fourth time. Nadeem Iqbal qualified a few months back in an event in France and Hira Lal and Himanshu Thakur qualified just a few days back in Turkey," Thakur stated.

"Another girl Aanchal Thakur, Alpine skier, has been trying hard to qualify but hasn`t happened so far. She has some time to do that, she is trying," he said. Three athletes had taken part in the 2010 edition of the Winter Games in Vancouver in Canada, while four represented the country in 2006 in Torino, Italy. Keshavan was the lone Indian athlete in Salt Lake City in United States in 2002 and in Nagano (Japan) in 1998.

Thakur hoped that there should not be any problem in the Sports Ministry clearing the four athletes with cost, despite they face the prospect of taking part as Independent Olympic Athletes under the IOC banner. "I don`t see any problem in the Ministry clearing the athletes with cost for the Winter Olympics. The government had declined to bear the expenses of our athletes to take part in the qualifying events. But I hope the government clears them for the Games," he said.

"It is a shame if these Indian athletes take part in the Winter Games under the Olympic flag. I have written a letter to the Indian Olympic Association officials to amend its constitution and hold elections before the Winter Games," Thakur said.

"The IOC chief has hinted if the IOA holds elections before the Winter Olympics, the world body may lift the ban and Indian athletes can take part under the national flag. I don`t know why the IOA officials are not doing this," he rued.
IOC President Thomas Bach had recently hinted that the suspension on the IOA may be lifted if the elections are held before the Executive Board meeting of the world body in Sochi on February 2 and 3.

If the IOA`s ban was not lifted by then, no Indian official will be allowed in the Winter Games nor will there be use of any symbol associated with the country during the Games. In its General Body meeting on December 8, the IOA amended its constitution to bar charge-framed persons from contesting elections but left rooms from interpretations. The IOC only gave a provisional approval of the constitutional amendment and directed the IOA to ratify the interpretation proposed by the world body if the suspension on India is to be lifted.