Indian athletes have participated in the Winter Olympics since 1988 and are rapidly improving their performance. Yet winter sports athletes do not receive financial assistance for their equipment and training or to compete in the world championships, forcing athletes to spend money out of pocket.
As the winter sports infrastructure in the country is very poor, it is not possible for athletes to train properly in the country. The Auli tracks in Uttarakhand are the only tracks authorized by FIS for international events in the country. The country does not have suitable ski resorts and coaches.
With only less than five months to go for the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, Indian athletes still hope the government will help them financially so they can fly abroad for training and qualifying competitions. necessary to be eligible for the Olympics.
Only two athletes – luger Shiva Keshavan and Indian Army cross-country skier Jagdish Singh – could qualify for the 2018 Winter Olympics, four other skiers from Himachal and Kashmir were unable to qualify. qualify for the event. As Shiva Keshavan bids farewell to the Olympics, Arif Khan of Kashmir is the only athlete preparing for the Olympics in Austria.
Meanwhile, Ski and Snowboard India (SSI), the governing body for skiing and snowboarding in India, has prepared a list of nearly 10 athletes. These athletes will be sent for 90 days of training abroad. They will also compete in races recognized by the International Ski Federation (FIS) to earn the minimum FIS points required to qualify for Beijing 2022. But their fate has yet to be decided – they need the money to travel. , train, load, embark and other expenses. The SSI has sent a proposal to the Ministry of Sports and the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) for approval of the funds, which is still under review. For now, without any other option, some athletes would have resorted to crowdfunding to continue their training and competitions.
SSI Secretary General Roopu Negi said: âOur athletes will certainly compete in the 2022 Winter Olympics which will be held in Beijing, China, starting February 4. We shortlisted about 10 athletes, civilian and military, based on their merit and background. performances. Once the budgetary provision is made, the athletes will be sent abroad for appropriate training for three months. During this time, they will participate in FIS races to earn the minimum FIS points required to qualify for Beijing 2022. Understanding the importance of sport, the government is also giving us its full support. We are focusing more on sending young athletes to training, as our main goal is to train them for the 2026 Olympics. Skier Arif Khan from Kashmir is already training in Europe without any help.
As professional winter sports are extremely expensive for athletes and a middle class athlete cannot afford to be a professional athlete. Athletes are required to travel abroad each year to train and participate in FIS races to earn points. From plane tickets to accommodation and meals to training and runway use costs are the responsibility of the athlete. The equipment is also very expensive. Helmets, gloves, boots, goggles and anything else an athlete wears must be approved by authorities before they are allowed to enter the track and train.
Ski resorts in India
Besides the Auli ski slopes, which are recognized and licensed by FIS, Gulmarg ski resort and Solang slopes are also pre-stamped by athletes in India. There are also many other natural tracks like Narkanda, Lahaul, Pahalgam, etc., but they require a considerable investment for a full facelift. In addition, none of the trails available in India have world-class infrastructure, good chair lifts and snow machines. There is a need to develop suitable ski resorts with easy connectivity and accommodation facilities for athletes.
Winter sports are not popular
According to experts, only a small part of (northern) India receives snow where winter sports are popular, but these games are not popular in the plains where skiing and other activities are not. not possible. In addition, these athletes are not highlighted by the media because they did not win any medals at the Olympics. Winter games experts in India are on the verge of change as the government has started to financially support training and equipment.
India needs better ski resorts with ski lifts, snow and snow machines, accommodation facilities for athletes, better kits and equipment and qualified coaches. Athletes say that a versatile training center for all sport disciplines is the need of the moment. They are also asking for funds to be made available to send them for training abroad.