New Delhi: Four-time Winter Olympian luger Shiva Keshavan is gearing up for the first World Cup along with the Olympic qualification, which starts next week in Norway, in his bid to represent the country for a record fifth time in the quadrennial event in Sochi in 2014.
"The athletes from all the countries are in top form and geared up for the season. The first World Cup and the Olympic Qualification starts next week in Norway," Shiva said from Sochi.
With three months left for the Winter Games, the heat is building up in the cold Caucasian mountains in Russia. Over 35 countries and 150 athletes have gathered in Krasnaya Polyana to train at the Sanki Olympic Sliding Centre.
The Games has two main venues, the Coastal Cluster events will be held in the coastal town of Sochi, and the Mountain Cluster events at Krasnaya Polyana, connected to Sochi by a 20-minute ultra high speed train.
Shiva, who has already completed two weeks of training in Lillhammer, and another two weeks in Albertville, venues of the 1994 and 1992 Olympic Games, expressed happiness with the facility at the Sanki Sliding Centre.
"It was good to test the ice here in Sochi prior to the World Cup season. The conditions here are great and being here served to bring my focus on my main goal this winter," said the current Asian Champion in Luge and the holder of Asian Speed and Track record.
Assisted by a team of young engineers led by his brother-in law Nalin Agarwal, the 32-year-old Shiva is trying to improve his equipment through scientific research and new materials.
The team is working on the aerodynamic design and vibration absorption, which will help him gain the few tenths of a second that currently separate Manali-born Shiva and an Olympic medal.
Shiva is also aiming to retain his top 37 world seed until December that will bring him his official Olympic Qualification through the invitation by the IOC and his ranking will depend on the number of points during the World Cup races.
There will also be pressure on him to retain his Asian Championship title, which he successfully defended in December 2012 for the second time.
At an estimated cost of USD 50 billion, these will be the most expensive Winter Games in the history, with recent Vancouver 2010 at USD 8.9 billion and 2012 London Olympics at USD 13.9 billion.
There will be 98 sets of medals up for grabs in 15 sporting disciplines, while at the previous Olympiad in Vancouver, there were 86.
Additional medals will be awarded in women`s ski jumping, team figure skating competition, half-pipe and slope-style in freestyle, both in men`s and women`s events, mixed relay race in biathlon and parallel slalom in snowboarding and the Luge team relay event.
The Sochi Luge track is one of the longest in the world at 1700 meters, and a rather technical one at that.