W Olympics: Team feels left out

With the Turin Winter Olympics round the corner, India are all set to send their biggest ever contingent. It includes Shiva Keshawan (Luge), Neha Ahuja (Alpine Skiing), Hira Lal (Alpins Skiing) and Gupta Bahadur Gurung (Nordic Skiing), accompanied by three coaches, who will battle it out on the slopes of Italy from February 10.

india Updated: Feb 02, 2006 01:38 IST

With the Turin Winter Olympics round the corner, India are all set to send their biggest ever contingent. It includes Shiva Keshawan (Luge), Neha Ahuja (Alpine Skiing), Hira Lal (Alpins Skiing) and Gupta Bahadur Gurung (Nordic Skiing), accompanied by three coaches, who will battle it out on the slopes of Italy from February 10. But the bitter truth is that no one, not even the participants believe they can win a medal or give tough competition to their more experienced opponents who are better equipped. And of course, the Indians still do not have a prominent sponsor. Not only is the Winter Olympics tougher than the Summer Games, but it is also very expensive. It's been over four months since the time the Winter Games Federation of India announced they would be sending a four-member squad to Turin, but not one corporate house has come up to support the team.

The only funds the federation has received so far is from the Ministry of Sports that also post qualification (Rs. 20 lakhs), International Olympic Solidarity (Rs. 7 lakhs) and Indian Army (Rs. 5 lakhs). "Expecting a medal is asking for too much," said Neha, who just returned from Austria after training. "As for now, it's all about improving your rankings."

Neha who seems to have put on a few kilos, expressed disappointment at still being without a sponsor. "It's very disappointing," she said. "It's not a local championship we are participating in, it is the Olympics," she said in anger. Gupta Bahadur Gurung, who will be taking part in the Cross Country Championship, spoke endlessly about his sport. "I wish to do well there but it will be very tough to get a medal," said Gurung, a havaldar in the Indian Army. Even as the athletes were well aware of their fate at the Winter Olympics, Chairman of the Winter Games Committee, Col. Narendra Kumar had an altogether different perspective. "Ten years later, every Indian will watch an Indian team playing an ice-hockey game rather than a cricket match," he said.

Kumar also said that these athletes have undergone rigorous training in Austria and Norway and the funds they have managed to receive successfully from the Ministry of Sports has helped them tremendously. "Winter sport is one the most expensive sport in the world," said Kumar. "We hope to do well but require a lot of financial resources which will help us to provide better equipment to our athletes," he added.

Even though the Indian contingent is inexperienced, all eyes will be on National champion of Luge since 1996, Shiva Keshawan, who recently won silver and bronze at the Asian Luge Championship. However, it will be an altogether different ballgame at the Olympics. Tem leaves for Torino this week.

First Published: Feb 02, 2006 01:38 IST