Luger Shiva Keshavan has been flying high for the last one month having qualified for his sixth winter Olympics and on Friday bagging the Asian championship crown.
The 36-year-old now has set a modest target of finishing the season with a career best performance in the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Games in Korea.
“It is probably going to be my last Olympics. The qualification wasn’t a big issue for me. But the real challenge is to finish with a career best performance,” said the country’s most recognised Winter Sports athlete whose best finish in the games was 25th in 2006.
Ask him how things have changed for him and the sport since he became the youngest luger to qualify for the Olympics in 1998, the 36-year-old is quick to point out that nothing really has changed in terms of facilities and the way people in India look at winter sport.
“The only thing that has changed is my experience and that is helping me,” he added.
What has also helped is his association with American Duncan Keneddy this year as they have been working together since September. Before that, Keshavan also worked start coach Martin Hildebrandt in the summer to work on his overall approach.
“Mine is a very technical sport and the mental aspect is very important. It is best to stay relaxed and let the sled run. I am having a good feeling this time that I have trained well and it is helping me get faster timings,” said Keshavan.
It was this relaxed approach that allowed him to recover during the Asian Chamionship race on Friday when his sled started skidding sideways on curve 11-12 combination and he had to bring it under control to retain the lead.
“The track is one of the most difficult in the world and I have had a few bad crashes here in the past. So, it was challenge on many levels,” he said.
While Keshavan has cleared the challenges so far with flying colours, the 36-year-old isn’t sure about the future of other winter sports athletes who have been trying to qualify for the Games.
“At the start of the year there were five more athletes who had a chance to qualify for the Winter Olympics. But some of them haven’t been able to go for their qualification races. Thankfully they have time till January to qualify and hopefully they will make the grade,” he added.
Even for Keshavan, he needs to participate in two more events to be eligible for the Winter Olympics as merely earning qualification points does not guarantee a luger a spot in the Games.
And his immediate concern is that he doesn’t have the tickets and final travel plan for these races.
His record in every Winter Games:
- 1998: 28th (3.28:385)
- 2002: 33rd (3:04.983)
- 2006: 25th (3:31.937)
- 2010: 29th (3:18.473)
- 2014: 37th (3:37.149)