Six-time Olympian and recipient of 10 medals including four gold in international luge championships, Shiva Keshavan, who sustained his career as professional luger for 22 years mostly by crowdfunding, has been recommended for Arjuna award.
A resident of Manali, the 38-year-old Keshavan, is among the 29 athletes who have been recommended for the Arjuna award by the National Sports Awards Selection Committee of Union Sports Ministry. While other athletes have been recommended for the award in well-known sports, this is for the first time that government is awarding an athlete for luge, a sport about which very few people in India have heard.
Keshavan is presently president of the Olympians Association of India and chief coach of the national team by Luge Federation of India. He was the first Indian to ever win an international medal in winter sports and is the only athlete from the country to qualify for Olympics in luge.
“Finally years of my hard work is getting recognition. I think I could have done better if I had government support since the very beginning of my career. I am thankful to the members of the selection committee for giving me this opportunity. It means a lot to me. Hopefully, this will help in the improvement of the winter sports infrastructure in the country,” Shiva Keshavan said.
The story of Shiva Keshavan qualifying for the Winter Olympics for the first time in 1998 till being recommended for this prestigious award is full of struggle and hard work. Though he participated in over 100 world championships, Asian Cups and other international tournaments but always remained in the financial crisis for his sports gears, travel and training expenses.
He could not participate in any championship for two years due to lack of funding. Given his skills and zeal for the sport, the Italian luge team had once offered him all support in return of representing their country but Keshavan denied saying that he will keep representing India only.
Shiva Keshavan was the youngest athlete in the world to qualify for the 1998 Winter Olympics in luge at the age of just 16. Since then, he participated in consecutive six Olympics. He has won four gold, four silver, and two bronze in Asian Championships in Nagano, Japan, and Altenberg, Germany from 2005 to 2017. Shiva Keshavan still holds an unbeatable Asian speed record of 134.3 km per hour.
While luge is a popular sport in many countries, India does not have even a single luge track. The sled used in luge being very expensive, Shiva could not afford to have one. Initially, he fitted small tyres to his sled and rehearsed on the steep roads of the Himalayas.
Shiva Keshavan had to visit other countries for proper training on luge tracks as there was a huge difference on-road and ice track. Government did not recognise his talent and did not fund his training. He then started crowdfunding to sustain his career.
Although Shiva Keshavan may not participate in 2022 Winter Olympics, he now plans to coach the young talents of the country to send them to the Olympics. “I’ll be coaching the other athletes. I’m also in talks with the officials and politicians at Centre for improvement in winter sports infrastructure. I also wish to support the other winter games associations,” he added.
Keshavan’s father hails from Kerala and his mother is from Italy. His parents run a restaurant at Vashisht in Manali. He was born and brought up in Manali. Initially, he showed interest in skiing but later chosen to go ahead with the most dangerous winter sports luge under the guidance of Austrian luge champion Gunther Lemmerer.
List of 29 athletes recommended for Arjuna Award 2020
1. Atanu Das (Archery)
2. Shiva Keshavan (Luge)
3. Dutee Chand (Athletics)
4. Satwiksairaj Rankireddy (Badminton)
5. Chirag Shetty (Badminton)
6. Vishesh Bhrighuvanshi (Basketball)
7. Ishant Sharma (Cricket)
8. Deepti Sharma (Cricket)
9. Lovlina Borgohain (Boxing)
10. Manish Kaushik (Boxing)
11. Sawant Ajay Anant (Equestrian)
12. Sandhesh Jhingan (Football)
13. Aditi Ashok (Golf)
14. Akashdeep Singh (Hockey)
15. Deepika Thakur (Hockey)
16. Deepak Niwas Hooda (Kabaddi)
17. Sarika Kale (Kho-kho)
18. Suyash Jadhav (Para-Swimming)
19. Manish narwal (Para-Shooting)
20. Sandeep Chaudhary (Para-Athletics)
21. Saurabh Chaudhary (Shooting)
22. Manu Bhaker (Shooting)
23. Sanil Shetty (Table-Tennis)
24. Divij Sharan (Tennis)
25. Divya Kakran (Wrestling)
26. Rahul Aware (Wrestling)
27. Sakshi Malik (Wrestling)
28. Mirabai Chanu (Weightlifting)
29. Dattu Bhokanal (Rowing)