The “fastest Indian on Ice” Shiva Keshavan defied all odds in his 12-year-long career to become the first Indian to win a medal at the Winter Asian Championship, and the lugeist is determined to go one step further in this year’s event in Japan.
The 28-year-old from Manali bagged a bronze medal in the singles category in luge in last year’s Asian Championship in Nagano, Japan.
But this time around he is gunning for the gold in the December-slated event in Nagano to break into the top 20 world rankings.
“Last year, I won a bronze medal in the same event at same venue. But this time I am looking to better my record, I am aiming for gold medal this year,” Mr. Keshavan told PTI.
“Every fraction of a second matters in this sport where you can touch speeds of up to 150kmph. I am working hard to break into the top group of racers in the world,” he said.
Luge, a French word for ‘sled’, is a winter Olympics sport in which, lying on a sled, one zooms down a track of ice at eighty miles per hour speed.
The athletes learn to lie back, relax and manoeuvre their sleds. The purpose is to do it as fast as they can without falling off of the sled.
Incidentally, Mr. Keshavan also has a silver medal in the doubles category at the 2005-06 Asian Championships.
However, for the three-time Winter Olympian (1998, 2002, 2006), road to success was not easy as in India adequate training facilities and equipments for the sport is absent.
Mr. Keshavan is also desperately in search of a full-time coach to prolong his career.
“So far, whatever I have achieved is on my own without any financial assistance from the government although I am representing India internationally for over 12 years.
“I kept learning on my own but to perform well at international level, I need a full time coach,” he said.
Mr. Keshavan, who at 17 became the youngest to compete in luge in Winter Olympics (1998 Nagano Games), is presently being trained part-time by Yann Fricheteau of France.
“I don’t have the resources to hire a coach on my own. In fact, I am the only sportsperson in the world who don’t have any coach and works with his own limited equipments and training. That’s why I approached corporates to help me and Coca Cola came forward to support my needs,” he said.
Only last year, Coca Cola came forward to sponsor Mr. Keshavan and this year Reebok will be providing kits to him, while Swiss Airlines will looks after his travel requirements.
Mr. Keshavan’s best performance in the Winter Olympics so far was the 25th place finish at Turin in 2006.
He is also involved in the development of winter sports in the country and was part of a talent scout programme in his hometown.