Shiva Keshavan: The Unsung Hero Of Indian Olympics

Shiva Keshavan: The Unsung Hero Of Indian Olympics

In a country struggling to pronounce ‘Luge”, Shiva Keshavan has represented India five times at Winter Olympics, has won the Asian Championship twice and is the Asian speed record holder in Luge. Recently, Shiva had to pull out of the Luge World Championships in Germany and Luge World Cup circuit due to “lack of funds.” Here at we present to you the story of Shiva, the hero India owes. Luge which is pronounced as “lu:g”, is one of the oldest winter sports featured at the Winter Olympics Games where a competitor or a team of two person rides a flat sledge while laying face up and feet first.

Shiva Keshavan: The Unsung Hero Of Indian Olympics

The event track is designed to be a curved slope, to ensure downward movement with speeds clocking in the range of 150 km/h without brakes. Luge is timed to the 1/1000th of a second, not only making it the fastest, but also the most precise Olympic sport. Speed, drops and turns make Luge a high-risk sport and one chance is all a participant gets. The competitor who clocks the fastest allover speed wins the event. Shiva Keshavan hails from the small hill town of Manali, Himachal Pradesh. He is the son of an Indian Father and an Italian Mother.

Growing in the midst of snow clad roads, pursuing winter sports was a natural choice for Keshavan. When he was just 15 years old, he attended Luge camp in his home town, conducted by world champion Gunther Lemmerer. Within a year, Keshavan became the youngest person to ever officially qualify for the Winter Olympics Games in Luge. Training for Luge is highly expensive and India also lacks the necessary infrastructure, gear and coaching expertise in any kind of winter sports. Keshavan dared to do something that was brave, bold and risky, even by the standards of this inherently risky sport. Since there are no Luge tracks in India, he modified his equipment by replacing Luge Blades with Luge roller skates. Then lion-hearted Keshavan lungged down the narrow hairpin highway roads of Manali at a speed ranging from 100 km/h to 120 km/h.

One tiny mistake on his part and the oncoming traffic could see him tumble into the 6,700 feet deep valley. Under these circumstances he clocked the best speeds in Asia. He was the pioneer of Luge and the only Indian participant at five consecutive Winter Olympics. Shiva matters because he chose to not let the circumstances make him surrender his passion. There was no tracks for Luge, there was no audience for Luge in India. Shiva made the roads of Manali his Luge training center and became his own team mate. Shiva has been representing India for 20 years in Luge, and had no real support or recognition all through his journey. His two former Olympian coaches has quit due to non-payment of salary, which is a major setback for someone competing at the World level.

Funding has been a major hurdle for Keshavan, as he had to shell out around Rs 1 crore per year from his own pocket for coach training fee, track fee, gym, medical, travel expenses, boarding and lodging, which is quite unaffordable to be managed. In spite of all these dejecting factors, he set a new Asian speed record at 134.3 km/h and won gold medal at Asia Cup 2001. In 2012, he set a new Asian track record at 49.590 seconds. Shiva should have quit when after being a five time Olympian and the flag bearer for India in the Winter Olympics was not enough for him to get enough funds and support for training. But he did not quit, “Quitting has not just crossed my mind, sometimes I have gone through phases when it was physically impossible for me to compete,” says Keshavan. Italy, which boasts world class lungers, recognized Keshavan’s talent. They also offered him citizenship and access to all existent luge infrastructures along with funding. However, Shiva rejected the offer declaring that he is an Indian and would always compete for India. Meanwhile, the Indian sporting faternity is yet to acknowledge the efforts and achievements of a home-grown hero.

The bitter truth is that India does not even consider winter sports seriously enough to fund it further. International Luge Federation, noticing the promising talent, helped Keshavan for training, when he qualified for his first Olympics. Micromax Informatics Ltd. has pledged it’s sponsorship for Keshavan’s training, equipment and all his necessities to compete in Pyeongchang Winter Olympics 2018. Stay tuned for further interesting updates like this.