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From Chamoli to 2018 Winter Olympics, Jagdish Singh Rawat’s incredible tale

Jagdish Singh Rawat is only one of the two Indians at the 2018 Winter Olympics. On February 16, this 26-year-old skier will compete in the 15km cross-country in Pyeongchang.

other sports Updated: Feb 10, 2018 09:21 IST
Saurabh Duggal
Saurabh Duggal
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
2018 Winter Olympics,Jagdish Singh Rawat,Winter Olympics
Jagdish Singh Rawat will compete in the 15km cross-country skiing at the 018 Winter Olympics.(HT Photo)

Jagdish Singh Rawat joined the Army to supplement family income. Nine years later, he will participate in the Winter Games with five-time Olympian Shiva Keshavan as teammate.

Before joining the Army, Rawat had no idea of winter sports. On February 16, this 26-year-old skier will compete in the 15km cross-country in Pyeongchang.

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Like with many sportspersons, Army changed his life. “It was only after joining Army that I got a chance to experience skiing and at that time, I never imagined that these blades would give me an opportunity to represent the country at the world’s highest sporting arena,” said Rawat.

Humble beginnings

Rawat is from Kaflori, a remote place in the Chamoli district of Uttarakhand. With a quarter-acre of land as the major source of income, life was hard for this son of an ex-serviceman. The eldest of four siblings in a family of six, Rawat was expected to supplement the earnings and in 2009, he joined as a sepoy with Garhwal Rifles. He was 17 and had just completed school.

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After training, Rawat was shortlisted for High-altitude Army Warfare School (HAWS). It was only after being selected to HAWS in 2011 that Rawat got to know what skiing was.

“In our village most of the people have small landholdings, so the youth are either dependent on Indian army and paramilitary forces for a living or they have to look for menial jobs in big cities. So, my first preference was the Army as from childhood I was fascinated by the uniform. Being from the rough terrains helped me to clear the physical test.”

“I learnt to ski as it was a mandatory part of training but even at that time I had no idea that skiing would take me places.”

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Rawat made his international debut in the 2013 World Championship in Italy. He also took part in the Winter Asian Games in Japan last year.

“Had it not been for the Army, I would not have even imagined participating in such an expensive sport. An international standard skiing kit costs Rs 4-5 lakh. I still recall a time when we didn’t have even Rs 10 to spend and the best way we used to enjoy the fair was watching kids having rides.”

First Published: Feb 10, 2018 09:21 IST