Manali: Five-time Olympian and face of winter sports in India Shiva Keshavan has resorted to a crowd funding campaign to sustain his career. Manali-based Keshavan is the country’s only professional luger.
He won silver at the Asian Luge Championship in 2015, but could not participate in the World Luge Championship due to lack of funds. The tournament started on January 31 in Konigsberg, Germany.
The 34-year-old is now seeking monetary contributions, amounting to just over a crore, which will help him participate in the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics in South Korea.
“Since I was not getting any help from the union sports ministry, my friends suggested me to go for crowd funding. We are trying to raise some funds but it is like a drop in the ocean,” Keshavan said.
“The babus in sports ministry have been full of apathy for winter sports. But, I am hopeful of holding our national flag once again during the opening ceremony of 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea,” he added.
As to how much he requires for what to pursue as a professional luger Keshavan said, “I need nearly Rs 30 lakh to pay on year’s salary to my coach then Rs 12 lakh for equipment, Rs 13 lakh for winter and summer training which will include training fee, track fee, gym and physio therapy. Besides, there will be travel expenses that will amount to nearly Rs 20 lakh Another Rs 28 lakh will be required for boarding and lodging. Altogether it amounts a little more than Rs 1 crore.”
Two-time world champion Duncan Kennedy, who was the technical director of United States luge team, was Keshavan’s coach since 2014 But, Kennedy had to discontinue services as he didn’t get his complete salary in 2015. Under the American’s guidance, Keshavan has won the silver at Asian Luge Championship. In 2002, Italy had recognized Keshavan’s talent and offered him citizenship and access to the country’s existent luge infrastructure along with funding. However, Keshavan rejected the offer citing patriotism as the main issue.
Interestingly, India doesn’t have a single luge track but still the Manali lad has been keeping India’s flag fluttering at the Winter Olympics since 1998, when he made his international debut as a 16-year-old at the Nagano Winter Olympics.
Keshavan has also written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi for financial support, but with no response from the government yet, Keshavan’s dream of Olympic success is steadily diminishing.
Sanjay Dutta, an engineer by qualification but is a journalist by choice.
He has worked for the premier new agency Press Trust of India and leading English daily Indian Express.
With more than a decade of experience, he has been highlighting issues related to environment, tourism and other aspects affecting mountain ecology.
Sanjay Dutta lives in a village close to Manali in Kullu valley of Himachal.