Winter of discontent for Indian athletes
India’s athletes training for the next winter Olympics are feeling the chill of the Indian Olympics Association’s suspension by the global body.
A small band often neglected, the Athletes training for next year’s winter games in Sochi, Russia are desperate for funding to put together a decent training programme ahead of the mega event.
With winter sports not a priority for funding by the sports ministry, these athletes usually pin their hopes on support through the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) Olympics solidarity programme. Under the scheme, IOC provides funds to the tune of around R10 lakh ($18,000) per athlete per annum through the NOC (National Olympic Committee) for the training for the Olympics.
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The names of three — four-time Olympian Shiva Keshavan (luge), Olympian Jamyang Namgia and Anchal Thakur (both skiing) — were recommended by the IOA for funding and they have also been cleared by the IOC.
However, due to the IOA’s suspension, the grant was not forwarded to the trio. Keshavan started getting the funds directly from the IOC since February on a recommendation by India’s IOC member, Randhir Singh, but the other two are still waiting.
“With limited top-level training facilities in the country, we have to train abroad to achieve the qualification mark for the Olympics and it costs a huge sum of money. With hardly any funding from the sports ministry, we are totally dependent on the solidarity scholarships. In other sports, there is government funding too, so it is not going to affect their training,” said Roshan Lal, secretary general of the Winter Games Federation of India. “Our athletes are really having a tough time arranging funds from their pockets.”
The scholarships for the Sochi Games are available from November 1, 2012, till February 2014.
“It was only during the recent world championship in Austria that we came to know that athletes from other countries have started getting the scholarships. Shiva’s case was forwarded by Randhir Singh, so we also meet and request him to forward the cases of the two skiers,” he said.
Winter sports are not a priority for the sports ministry. But they are quite popular in Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand states.
Recently two Indian teams, comprising players from these states and including defence personnel, competed in the world championships at no cost to the government.
“WGFI receives around R10-12 lakh annual grant from skiing’s international body. With that money we have already sent two teams to the world championships in Austria (Alpine) and Italy (cross-country). Now we have no money left to support our future programmes,” Lal added.