Travails of the Olympian kind...
The Olympics are here again and while all eyes are focused on Athens, one unsung Olympian returns to the country of his roots. Meet Shiva Keshavan, 22, international Luge athlete and lone representative of a billion Indians in the last two Winter Olympics.
Currently pursuing a course in international relations from the University of Florence, Shiva is returning to India after two years. Missing are the hordes of autograph-seekers, journalists and officials who hound cricketers and Olympic medallists.
"Most people don't know that India participates in the Winter Olympics," says Shiva. "And they have certainly not heard of Luge."
An Olympic sport since 1964, Luge stands for 'sled' in French. The sport is an adrenalin-pumping sled ride through a semi-circular tunnel of ice. Athletes travel feet first with minimal protection at speeds of 150 km/hr, against a centrifugal force similar to that faced by fighter jets.
Also, high sensitivity means even a slight twitch by the athlete can drastically change the course of the sled.
Shiva was introduced to the sport at an International Luge Federation camp at Panchkula in 1996. The teenager showed promise and got invited to Europe for a training camp. At the age of 16, Shiva became the youngest to qualify for the 1998 Nagano Winter Olympics. He finished his competition at 28th position, ahead of every Asian competitor except one.