India made yet another goal in the history of international sports on Tuesday. Aanchal Thakur, a Manali girl made history by winning India’s first-ever international medal in skiing. The 21-year-old seized a bronze in the coveted Alpine Ejder 3200 Cup organised by the Federation Internationale de Ski (FIS), which is skiing’s international governing body at the Palandoken Ski Centre in Erzurum in Turkey. She proudly conquered the medal in the slalom race category.
Aanchal told Times of India from Turkey “Months of training have finally borne fruit. I started well and managed to take a good lead, which helped later in getting the third-place finish.’ This talented sports woman hails from Burua, a small village in Manali. She learnt the ropes from her father. Later, Heera Lal, a former Olympian, honed her skills.
Her feat is special given that there is no culture or even a near to sound infrastructure for winter sports in India. It is also well known that the Union Sports Ministry gives only a negligible helping hand to those participating in winter sports in India.
Aanchal’s father, Roshan Thakur, who is the secretary-general of the Winter Games Federation of India (WGFI), proudly told the press, “This is a breakthrough for the sport in India and the entire skiing fraternity is proud of her achievement.’ The proud father continued to say, “Aanchal called me on WhatsApp and showed me the medal. I thought it was some kind of a souvenir given at the end of every FIS event! But she told me that she won a bronze.’
This talented Manali girl’s odyssey in international skiing has either been financed by her father or FIS that would help to fund her trips. Her father grieves over the fact that there has been no monetary support from the Centre. He told to the press, “The bureaucrats in the sports ministry do not acknowledge skiing as a sport.’ A professional skier requires skis, boots and bindings, poles, helmets, suits, goggles and gloves to compete. Just the equipment costs around Rs 5 lakh to Rs 10 lakh. Aanchal’s father added, “I hope Aanchal’s medal helps our cause (in getting financial support from the Centre). I want to see my daughter and son represent the country at the 2018 Winter Olympics…The Centre only funds travel and logistics from one Olympic to another. Rest of the time, you have to fend for yourself.”
With an international medal in skiing, India hopes to see some light in the arena of winter sports this new year. Will the ministry see this as the right time to step out into action (adding the need for proper recognition of winter sports as an agenda in the revamped Khelo India Programme maybe) is something that we can wait and watch out for.