For Shiva Keshavan, it was a road race that started it all
The journey that began at a camp in Panchkula for India’s Shiva Keshavan will end after six Olympics in PyeongChangother sports Updated: Feb 10, 2018 17:48 IST
Shiva Keshavan, 36, will take his last bow at PyeongChang. This Winter Olympics will end a 23-year-old sporting career that spanned a record six Games and four Asian titles.
Keshavan’s roots are in Manali, Himachal Pradesh, known for winter sports but his fascinating journey started from a place where there has never been any snow – Panchkula in Haryana.
Keshavan took his first lessons in luge on the Kalka-Pinjore road in Panchkula at a weeklong scouting camp organised by the International Luge Federation.
“Before attending that camp I had no idea about luge. But being a skier and a good athlete, my school (Lawrence School Sanawar) recommended me for the luge talent hunt camp,” he said.
“At the camp there were guys from the Army, ITBP (Indo Tibetan Border Police), Navy and champion junior athletes from many sporting disciplines. Though the sport was new for me, being from Manali gave me an advantage. The kids in our area are familiar with wooden sledges they make themselves and play with in winter. So, it didn’t take much time to familiarise myself with luges that had roller blades.”
The Hollywood film ‘Cool Running’, based on Jamaica’s debut in the Winter Olympics through their bobsled team, motivated the International Luge Federation to scout for talent in unlikely destinations, including India. And this brought world champion Guenther Lemmerer to the camp in Panchkula.
“First they showed us a video of luge and bobsleigh and then the movie ‘Cool Runnings’. We used sledges with roller blades after that,” recalled Keshavan.
“I still remember that a day before the race at the camp, I took the sled for a solo spin after training and went down the ‘khud’ side, experiencing the risk associated with the sport,” he added.
From the camp in Panchkula, Keshavan was chosen for a training stint in Austria and a year after making his international debut, he became the youngest ever luge-Olympian, at the 1998 Nagano Winter Olympic Games. He was the only entrant from India.
“Now it is really amazing to see how far I came since the day I piloted my first sled on the Kalka-Pinjore road in Panchkula. I never imagined I would reach this far given all the obstacles I had to face,” he said.