Tuesday, July 31, 2007

BLOG INTERVIEW - Shiva Keshavan

Meet Shiva Keshavan. At 25, he's India's most famous luger and the most likely candidate to win the country a rare medal at the Winter Olympics.

A Winter Olympic sport since 1964, luge involves a high-speed sled ride through a semi-circular ice track.

At this young age, Keshavan's already a veteran - having taken part in three Winter Olympics and now preparing for his fourth at Vancouver 2010.

At Torino last year, he finished 25th - a creditable result considering only one second separated him from the gold medallist in terms of best lap time.

Moreover, Keshavan did it against all odds - no funding or help from a defunct national luge association. And he had to compete on an inferior-quality sled because he can't afford the best.

Because his mother is Italian, the Italians had even offered him citizenship but Keshavan refused. But disgusted with the state of affairs in India, the young luger has now set up his own sports federation to help fellow athletes.

But Keshavan told Toe Knee Unplugged he hadn't participated in any events last winter because he didn't have any funds to do so.

Here are some excerpts from the interview -

"I have not received any help from the Sports Ministry. My application for a grant of five lakh for five years was accepted but after the Olympics I have got no word from anybody. I suspect it is the well known bureaucracy that is so good at making funds vanish under its cloak."

"The winter sports federation IFISTS is in place. Bureaucracy has it that three years must pass before it gets any recognition."

"I did not participate in any race due to a total absence of funds last winter. I did maintain myself in form by training on my own. My performance in Torino gave me confidence in my potential to move further up the world rankings. I want to give the world's top some sweat at Vancouver 2010."

"I have not been in contact with the Italian team. Despite my part Italian origins, I feel a sense of belongingness to India and I think it is here that I can make a larger difference."

"I wanted to share the fact that I have not been given my certificate, medal and Olympian pin badge for my participation at the Torino Olympics. I am sure that it is a deliberate action and that athletes dedicting themselves to the glory of their country must be given more respect."

"I am currently in India and plan to remain here for some time. I would like to dedicate myself to sports development in India. I also hope to continue my training with adequate facilities and realise my true potential in luge."

"I am currently negotiating with a company for sponsorship so will not comment before something is finalised."

"I have completed my university with specialisation in international relations from the University of Florence. One of my main areas of interest was the role of non-government organisations. I also have an NGO of my own, La Giraffa which has done its share of projects not only in India."

Other Exclusive Interviews on this blog
Ravi Godse
Sona Mohapatra
Mahesh Dattani
Ruchi Narain

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