CHENNAI: First-ever Indian to take part in the Winter Olympics, multiple Asian Champion in a career closing in on two decades. Those credentials depict a healthy picture. For any sportsperson to survive and actually blossom for that long needs plenty of backing from all sides. But Luge pilot Shiva Keshavan’s tale is remarkable.
Luge has always been isolated and potential fans have never had the chance to warm to the thrill of the sport. Lack of infrastructure, promotion and awareness has kept the sport in a lonely spot.
Despite the hurdles, Shiva has continued to thrive in the sport that he picked up during his tender years in the foothills of Manali. Not so long time ago, the 35-year-old had contemplated quitting. He was forced to withdraw from the 2016 World Championships due to a lack of funds. Quitting was never a choice for him. “I can either give up lamenting lack of support or try to push forward and make the best of what I have. If you try hard enough, support is always around the corner,” Shiva said.
With a little help from some corner, Shiva soldiered on, counting on the positives. Last week, he added another feather to his cap with an Asian crown in Nagano.
“The taste of victory is that much sweeter since the lead up to the event was so arduous. The year had started off on a bad note since I had to pull out of some important races due to lack of funds. I’m grateful to my sponsors Micromax, Mallcom, Hero Electronix and Hero Fincorp that enable me to get back to competing and winning for India.”
A glimpse at Shiva’s Wikipedia page will reveal that he has had plenty of success in Nagano. “Nagano is a special place for me since I competed in my first Olympics here. My good feelings and connection to Nagano and Japan bring out the best in me.”
A sport which is considered dangerous, Shiva had a minor scare ahead of recent victory. “I suffered tendon damage and some bruising on my left foot a week before the race. I was worried about missing the race but luckily, I had enough time to recover.”
Just couple of years back, Shiva had managed to get a full-time coach, Duncan Kennedy, for the first time in his career. It was a huge boost for him then. However, that joy didn’t last long as he was forced to part company with the 21-time world champ in no time. He had exhausted his savings, paying for his services. But he revealed that he is still actively in touch with the coach.
“I’m working with Duncan, we have a long competition season with seven international races including the World Championships in Austria and the Olympic test event in Korea. We decided to save money on some of the tracks that I am more comfortable with and do without him physically being there. We were in touch regularly over the internet throughout the training in Japan.”
For the 2018 Olympics, Shiva has taken to crowdfunding. He is delighted with the response so far. Currently, Shiva is focussed on getting good practice with Olympic qualification in mind. “Once the Olympic qualifying season is open, I will have to make the cut to be there. Then I can concentrate on doing well at the Games.”