When it comes to Winter sports, we still have a long way to go. The Winter Olympics have just concluded in Pyeongchang, and once again, India drew a blank in the medal-tally.
Our country is slowly waking up to sports other than Cricket, and we have shown significant improvement in the summer games over the last two decades.
However, the winter games are yet to catch the fancy of the Indian population. Many might not be aware that our debut in Winter Olympics came at Innsbruck, Austria in 1964.
Since then, we have made our presence felt at nine other Winter Olympics, but without medals. This year, our contingent consisted of only two athletes, our lowest since the 2002 Olympics.
Shiva Keshavan, veteran of Winter Olympics, participated in the Luge – Men’s Singles event. Ironically, Keshavan was our sole representative at the 2002 edition. It was Keshavan’s sixth and final appearance at the Olympics.
Keshavan clocked a best time of 48.71 seconds in his three runs to finish in the 34th position, out of 40 participants. His score was not enough for him to make the cut for the final run. Here is a look at Keshavan’s final run at the Olympics.
Jagdish Singh was our second representative at the Games. The 26-year-old is an Indian Army employee, and it was his debut appearance at the Winter Olympics. Jagdish participated in the Men’s 15 km cross-country skiing event.
It was a rather heroic effort from the Army-man to make the cut for the Games, but he could only manage a 103rd-position finish, in a group of 119 athletes. He clocked 43:00.3 on the clock, and the Gold medal was won by Dario Cologna of Switzerland at 33:44:9.
The sad state of winter sports in our country is such that these results haven’t surprise anyone. It’s not difficult to see that the concept of Winter Olympics is not very inclusive, and these sports don’t share the same popularity in all countries. Some countries completely lack the necessary infrastructure to train for winter sports, and this was very evident in the fact that only 92 countries participated in the games.
Same is the case with our country. There are very few and limited regions in our country that can sustain winter sports, and even fewer people with regular access to such facilities.
This inaccessibility leads to a lack of interest among public, and thus, without support from the public, these athletes have no funds and infrastructure in place. Keshavan once ran a crowdfunding campaign to fund his Olympics trip, and he also once had to borrow a sled.
As the Winter Olympics were going on, there was a very little buzz about the event in the country. Will this situation improve in the future or ever at all? Only time will tell. One thing for sure is that we have a long way to go.
We are not really a winter sports-loving country. Most of us Indians don’t get to see snow for most of our lives, so what can you expect? However, we can always thank athletes like Keshavan and Jagdish, who came this far despite the lack of support from elsewhere.
Hopefully, one day, winter-sports will enter the mainstream-consciousness of our country. With Global Warming, who knows what the weather conditions will be like in 20 years?