On as many as four occasions has Shiva Keshavan proudly represented India at the Winter Olympics. But his eagerness, child-like, is undiminished, and he will be fighting for the fifth time in the luge category in the Sochi Winter Olympics next year. This time round, the two-time Asian gold medallist, is optimistic about his chances.
From becoming the first and the youngest Indian to compete in luge, at the Winter Olympics in 1998, he has come a long way. He set a new Asian speed record at 134.3 kmph and won gold in Asia Cup 2011 at Nagano in Japan. In 2012, he retained the Asian title by winning gold at the Asia Cup in the same venue and set a new Asian track record at 49.590 seconds.
The Manali-based luger, who is set to undergo training with the US national luge team, is hoping to improve his start to give himself a good chance of winning a medal.
Speaking to TNIE, the 31-year-old said: “Last year, I had a couple of injuries but I have pretty much recovered. I had to undergo rehabilitation. I did a lot of yoga, physiotherapy and now I am concentrating on starting training. The start is a very important part of the run and that's where you build up momentum. If I can improve on last year's start-time by a few tenths of a second, I think that will improve my results greatly. Apart from that, everything is on track and I hope to be on top form this season.”
Importantly, he is keen on sorting out his equipment before the big event. “I'll have access to proper coaching – which is possible with the Americans. I am looking forward to developing some specific equipment for the Olympic track, which is very particular. It is a new track, laid just two years ago, and no participant will have any home advantage or anything. There is a good chance to do well in Sochi,” Shiva explained.
Prior to the Sochi Games, Shiva is keen to retain his Asian crown and stay within top-40 ranking. “The Asian Championships in December is an important competition ahead of the Olympic games and I would like to retain my title and stay within top-40 ranking,” he said.
Shiva is also eyeing a good show in the World Cup, which will determine the seeding. “The World Cups are important because the seeding is going to be based on the performance out there. It will determine the starting order. If you have a better starting position, you have a high probability of have a better run. The Olympic season is crucial,” he asserted.
On the sidelines, he hopes the Sports Ministry would affiliate the Indian Amateur Luge Association (IALA). “It is important that the government recognises the federation. There are already a lot of people who are interested in the sport and also capable of representing India at the International level. The government is supporting me personally, under elite athlete category. But to support a wider base of athletes, the only way out is for the government actually recognises the IALA,” he said.
He pointed out that there are places where the government could build infrastructure for the sport. “There are wonderful places like Himachal, Uttarakhand and Kashmir, which have world-class natural resources for winter sport. The government could help build infrastructure in such places and help bring more athletes in the sport,” he added.
A sports buff, he enjoys almost every other sport. “It is good for the general development of a person. It helps improve a person's health, confidence and outlook towards life. And also for society, it helps one to interact with people, promote healthy competition and stay away from harmful drugs. I really enjoy hockey. I was a goalkeeper during my school days. I took part in a lot of other sports like athletics and gymnastics too,” he revealed.