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Hafiza Akhtar, coach and team manager of India's girls' alpine skiing team. © OCA

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India searching for the next ‘Lindsey Vonn’

Date : 12 Feb 2019

Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, Russian Federation, February 12, 2019: The great Lindsey Vonn was on the mind of Hafiza Akhtar, coach and team manager of India’s girls’ alpine skiing team, at the 1st Children of Asia Winter Games on Tuesday.

Two days after the Olympic legend from the USA ended her glittering career with a downhill bronze at the world championships in Sweden, Hafiza was hoping that one day there will be an Indian Lindsey Vonn.

“Inshallah (if Allah wills it),” says Hafiza. “That is the dream, my dream and I hope India will soon have a skier like the legendary Lindsey Vonn. What is happening here in Sakhalin is the start of that journey, hopefully, for some of our girls and boys.”

A giant in the world of cricket, India are still taking baby steps in winter sports despite having participated for more than two decades on the international stage – Hafiza was a skier at the inaugural Asian Winter Games in Sapporo, Japan, in 1986.

India has sent 15 athletes to the 1st Children of Asia Winter Games, nine of them in alpine skiing and snowboard plus six more in short track speed skating and figure skating. Three of the nine skiers are girls under the eagle eye of Hafiza – Malika Gul, Syed Azha and Deya Thakur.

“We have been involved in alpine skiing from as far back as the ‘70s. There are three ski resorts in Jammu and Kashmir, Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh, but we are struggling with providing the facilities,” Hafiza pointed out.

“But I think the biggest hurdle is the fact that skiing is an expensive sport. Although equipment is provided by us, if you want to compete internationally then you need to be well-funded and this is proving to be a bit of a struggle. But for these Games we have got the backing of the Indian Olympic Association and we are grateful for that,” Hafiza said.

At last year’s Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea, India qualified two male athletes, Jagdish Singh in cross-country skiing and Shiva Keshavan in luge. It was Keshavan’s sixth and final Winter Olympics.

“Things are changing slowly. Hopefully, one day we will have our own Lindsey Vonn,” declared Hafiza.

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