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Internationally, India has won medals in Luge- Shiva Keshavan

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India’s only Luger, Shiva Keshavan is known for bringing this sports to reckoning by his achievements at various international platforms, he talks about the sport, his personal ambitions and possible ways of promotion to this sport.

Olympic Luge in India…

Internationally, India has won medals in Luge, the first Gold medal at the Asian Championship was won in 2011, and repeated in 2012. Also, India will have her 5th Olympic participation in Sochi, Russia 2014. The media consequently picked it up and people do know now about the Olympic Winter Games and about Luge. Earlier I had to explain the entire concept, it’s much easier now.
In 2009, I launched a grass-roots initiative to scout for talent in Himanchal and Uttarakhand. 10 athletes went to Japan for training and competition in Luge. There is a lot of potential to win medals in winter sports. India needs to tap into this fast.

Shiva Keshavan without Luge Board…

I believe in sport as a way of life. I like the outdoors, to keep healthy, eat good food!

Basics of the sport…

Similar to car racing in many ways. This information is vast, available on the internet. Please refer to my facebook page,  #100thofasec, for more information. There is an infographic there.

Attributes of a Champion Luger…

Fit and healthy body, stable mind, access to world class Coaching, training and Equipment.

Facilities/infrastructure in India…

Infrastructure, needless to say, is lacking in India, especially if one compares the absolute sustainable system successful medal winning countries have.
Other countries have development programs that feature many athletes and teams for every sport in the both summer and winter disciplines, infrastructure, full funding support, athletes are assured of a job and salary while they compete for the country and after they are done. Sport Federations have tie ups with technology companies and academic Institutes for research and development and have access to world class Coaches.
India still has a very long way to go. Needless to say, we have the potential and we have the resources. If we can send a mission to Mars, I am sure we can do this as well!

Your progress from being the youngest ever Luge Olympian at 98 Nagano Winter Olympics to now…

I have matured a lot as an athlete since 1998 Nagano Olympic Games. I am now focused on getting faster and finding out ways to do it.

Training & coaching facilities in India…

Natural Track can and is practiced on the slopes in the mountains in India. It requires just a track packed down with snow. An Artificial track is more structured and requires some investment.
There is a Mountaineering and allied sports Institute in Manali, and the SAI has a facility close to Shimla, at a rudimentary level.
Comparison provided in the sixth question.

Support system in India…

Sport in general is a large sector in most developed countries. India should strive for that, and learn from the good things that others have been able to achieve.
Luge is one winter discipline that can be tapped into before it is too late. China is bidding for the 2022 Olympic Winter Games, they are sending about 10 athletes already in Luge this year. Korea has a large team and the next Winter Games are in Pyeongchang in 2018.

How to Promote Luge in India…

Luge and other winter sports need to be given support and brought into the mainstream. As I mentioned, there are many medals to be won in winter sports, as it is still unsaturated. We need to have talent scout camps, supported by the Federation and the Government. In my experience private promoters have played a big role in supporting athletes and sports.
Street Luge is something that can be done on any downhill road, I attended my first Luge camp in Panchkula, Haryana!
A good example is the USA. They have Olympic training centres in various locations throughout the country, each centre specializes in different sets of sports, and out of which one is dedicated to sliding sports like Luge, Bobsleigh and Skeleton. Athletes train, live and study there. They have world class Gym and training facilities, physiotherapists, Coaches, counseling centers etc all within these centers. Later athletes have employment opportunities –  it is a complete developmental plan. These academies have strategic tie-ups with National Sport Federations, research institutes, technology companies etc. They also take care of sponsorship. Effectively, all an athlete has to focus on is his sport and that’s how they manage to do so well! (See more articles featuring Shiva here)

Possible Venues in India…

Street luge can be held on any empty downhill-sloped road where traffic is cordoned.
Natural Luge can be held in places like Himachal, Uttarakhand and Kashmir, where they get snow.

Changes you saw during your journey…

I think sport in India has generally grown since I started, and a lot of understated credit goes to Abhinav Bindra’s Gold medal. I remember when I was going for my first Olympic Games, some people did not believe me, others did not seem to think it was a big deal.
But when I held India’s flag at the Opening ceremony in front of millions of people at the Nagano Games and 3 times after that, I realized how big an opportunity I had been given, and now I believe with big opportunities like these come big responsibilities, which is why I want to promote Luge and sport in India.

Programs run by IOC or supported federation/association in India…

The International Olympic Committee supports athletes through the Olympic Solidarity programs.
The first Luge camp that I attended was actually an initiative by the International Luge Federation.

World Leader countries & sportspersons…

Germany is the top medal winning country, owing to their exceptional sport systems. Italy, Austria, USA, Canada and Russia are very close.
Athletes like Georg Hackl, Markus Prock, Armin Zoeggler are some legendary luge pilots who have been wonderful to watch and follow. They have been behind some of the technological developments behind the sport as well, which I admire.

Upcoming championships…

I will be taking part in the 9 World Cups in the lead up the Games, and the Asian Championships.
My immediate aims are to be in the top 37 of the world, get Olympic qualification, improve my World Ranking and win the Asian Championship again!

Recent Championships and your better performances…

I have taken part in 3 races so far in this season, and I have been in the top 30. Team India needs access to technology, which I have some ideas about, to be able to really get up there and compete with teams who already have access to it.
I am very happy with my physical form this winter. I had shoulder injuries last season which have now healed. Also my start is getting faster!

Future aspirations…

I aim to not stop till I can! I intend to participate in competitions in the lead up to the 2018 Olympic Games in Korea, improve my ranking, get access to world class equipment, so we can actually be the top in the world.

Words to fans and supporters…

I feel very encouraged and motivated by all the support.I am doing this for all of you, for my fans, friends and my family, and I want to be able to bring home the best.

Other Indian Lugers…

Unfortunately so far other athletes in Luge have not been able to continue due to lack of support and funds. I am working to change all this. However, there is a team of 10 athletes who I have personally trained in Himachal and Japan, and I am looking to continue this legacy through them.

(A Luger, or Luge Athlete, is someone who competes against each quantum of time, that too on a sled which the Luger controls with calf of his legs or by exerting opposite shoulder pressure to the sled. It is an Olympic sport which has three disciplines viz. Men Singles, Men Doubles, Women Singles and a fourth discipline Team Relay is to be introduced in 2014)
This article was originally posted on www.zeroethumpires.com which happened to be our own website.

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