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Date : 04 Oct 2018
Buenos Aires, Argentina, October 4, 2018: When Shiva Keshavan first tried out his hand in luge, it was down a potholed road in Manali, a high-altitude Himalayan resort town in India’s northern state of Himachal Pradesh.
Keshavan fell in love with the adventure and speed of luge and decided to dedicate himself to the sport even though winter sports in India being almost non-existent in the early 1990s, and despite the total lack of infrastructure.
“When I started training, we had no facilities, no coaching, no equipment,” Keshavan recounts. “In order to reach my goals, everything had to be done in a really innovative way. With a little inspiration from ‘Cool Runnings,” we modified the sled slightly so I could use it down the highway.
“The road definitely had more obstacles than a luge course does, especially in India, with the traffic and the potholes, but these challenges were very much a part of my journey,” Keshavan reveals in his Olympism In Action story.
Keshavan’s journey as an athlete has ended but by no means is it over as he works towards helping grow winter sports and the Olympic movement in India.
Son of an Indian father from Kerala and an Italian mother, Keshavan was born and brought up in the mountains up in Manali. He was just 16 when he first took part in the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan. He was the only Indian competitor at the Games. He competed in six Winter Olympics for India, bringing the curtain down on his over two-decade career in Pyeongchang in February with a 34th-place finish in men’s luge.
“My Olympic experience helped me grow so much as a person. I’ve had so many more opportunities than so many people in my home town, my home village. I can set an example now for the next generation. I think it is very important for athletes to take this role of theirs as leaders, because people are looking up to you,” said the 36-year-old Keshavan.
Now that he is retired, Keshavan is focusing on sharing his love of luge with India in the hope that winter sports will grow at home. Despite the passage of time, not much has happened in India as far as winter sports are concerned. Apart from Keshavan, there was only one other athlete from India in Pyeongchang, Jagdish Singh in cross-country skiing.
“I see a lot of enthusiasm among young kids. I run a national talent scout programme in which I go with my roller sleds to villages and schools and let people try the sport, experience it. I see a lot of passion there. Since I’m not an active sportsman anymore, I hope to have more time to build a sustainable development programme. This is one of my goals,” he added.
The Olympism In Action Forum, a new initiative by the International Olympic Committee, is focused on building a better world through sport. The forum will be held before the 3rd Summer Youth Olympic Games gets underway in Buenos Aires on Saturday.
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