Imagine you were an Olympic athlete. Now picture competing in a sport that your home country had no physical infrastructure in which you could practice. Lastly, envision after your hard work, paying your own travel costs, having friends develop your equipment and lastly, due to circumstances beyond your control, being unable to represent your home country in the Winter Games.
Welcome to the life of Indian luge participant, Shiva Keshavan.
His remarkable tale is certainly one for the ages. Shiva‘s luge aspirations came from, not too surprisingly, the John Candy movie ‘Cool Runnings’ the true-ish story of the Jamaican bobsled team. This will be Shiva’s fifth Winter Olympics, but you have probably never heard of him.
India lacks an ice luge track and there are no plans for constructing one. As a result, Shiva literally barrels down Himalayan mountain roads in a luge-like contraption (similar to street luge), dodging sheep, sliding underneath huge trucks and narrowly missing other traffic and people.
If you doubt, watch this video.
Keshavan’s coach recently quit, because he was no longer paid. In addition, India’s corrupt sports ministers ensured that Shiva would not receive country support, which similar athletes rightfully deserve and receive in others.
Furthermore, he cannot race under the Indian flag, because the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) was suspended in early December from international competition. India’s suspension is due to their insistence in letting officers remain election candidates, even when accused of crimes. The IOC, its own foibles aside, frowns on such behavior.
To give an example of how rotten the IOA is, its former director recently served a 10-month jail sentence for corruption at the conclusion of India’s Commonwealth Games, held in New Delhi in 2010.
Keshavan told Indian media that not being able to compete under the national flag was both “shameful and pathetic.”
Thankfully, Keshavan received an IOC scholarship to attend Sochi’s games, and will compete as an ‘independent’ athlete under the Olympic flag along with two other Indians beginning February 7.
He is currently ranked 31st out of 39th in the world; winning a medal will not come easily. However, he has already won the admiration and support of millions of Indians and sports fans worldwide through his incredible story.