National gold medallist Stephen Paul of Hyderabad, in a bid to earn a berth for the 2014 Winter Olympics, has decided to shift from inline skating to ice skating.
As part of chasing this big goal – to compete in the 2014 Winter Olympics and win a medal in the 2018 edition, he is leaving on Thursday for Salt Lake City in the US to train for the next five years.
“This is a golden dream I am pursuing despite severe financial constraints,” says the spirited Stephen, who has had the painful experience of doctors fixing a rod in his broken right leg in 2010 to support the bone after the accident during the Mysore Nationals. “Since the efforts to include inline skating in the Olympics has not met with the desired response, many skaters are opting for ice skating,” explains Stephen Paul in a chat with ‘The Hindu’.
For someone who has been involved with the sport at the national level for 12 years now and with some distinction, including a gold in the recent ice-skating nationals, 21-year-old Stephen says, “Well, when I won the gold in the Open Ice National Skating Championship in Pune, I thought this would be a better option if I were to realise my dream of representing India in the Olympics,” he says.
Who is the inspiration? “Ice skaters across the world owe it to K. C. Boutiette of USA, who within 10 years of the shift had won the gold in the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake,” reminds Stephen Paul, whose early coaches were Abbas Lasania and Satyanarayana Rao.
“It may sound different but I want to lead the way for others in India. And to realise my dream I will be training under 2002 Winter Olympics gold medallist Derek Parra,” the city-based skater revealed.
“It should be a great experience and help me move closer to realising my childhood dream of an Olympic medal,” Stephen concluded.