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Jeremy Bujakowski and India's debut at the Winter Olympics

Jeremy Bujakowski and Indias debut at the Winter Olympics

Sounak Mullick

Published: 25 Jan 2018 3:26 AM GMT
When it comes to Winter Sports, we will not consider India as a major contributor to the category, but we can boast of an Indian alpine skier of Polish descent who made the country proud by becoming the first from the country to feature in the Winter Olympics back in 1964. With the 2018 Pyeongchang Games around the corner let us have a look at the incredible story of an athlete who braved many difficulties and chased his dreams even though the odds were against him. Born in Druskininkai, Poland, Jeremy along with his family migrated to India when he was seven. His parents Halina Korolec Bujakowski and Stanislaw Bujakowski passed their idle time in travelling. They hit the road on a motorcycle and travelled across the globe from Druskininkai to Shanghai from 1934 to 1936, following which they settled down. It was when Stanislaw got a job in the Oil Industry in India that the Polish family decided to reside in the Asian country. St. Joseph's North Point, Darjeeling was his destination following which he graduated from St. Xavier's College in Kolkata. He then left for the United States to complete his higher studies. 'Jerry' Bujakowski started skiing in Boise, Idaho following which he got a scholarship at the University of Denver. It was during the year 1963, that the skier decided to compete in the Winter Olympics, which would be the first Indian contingent at the Games!
Source: Twitter At the age of 25, he competed in the Men's downhill event in Alpine Skiing during the 1964 Winter Olympics in Innsbruck, Austria. Though it was a historic moment for India, it was not so memorable for the athlete. Jeremy got injured during the games and suffered a broken back along with concussions. Not only that, it was accompanied by internal haemorrhages with a fractured leg. All these led to the end of his journey at the 1964 Games. It took him for than normal to recover from the injury, even after undergoing four operations each in a gap of six months. Although he was not totally fit, he never gave up and started to practice at the Mammoth Mountains with a ski and the left leg under a cast. Jeremy dreamt of participating in the next edition of the Winter Olympics in 1968! 'Jerry' Bujakowski repeated history once again as was back in playing condition just before the 1968 Games which was held in Grenoble, France. It was a better outing than the previous as the Indian representative finished 53
in the downhill category while stood 65th in the giant slalom. He was not so lucky in the Slolam event in which he failed to qualify for the final rounds. Apart from that, he was also India's 'Chef the Mission' (head of the nation's delegation) for the mega event. Following the 1968 Grenoble Games, participation in the Winter Olympics as India had to wait 20 years to feature in the showpiece event once again. In 1988, Shailaja Kumar became the first women from India to feature in the Winter Games. She along with Gul Dev and Kishir Rahtna formed the three-athlete Indian contingent to Nagano, in Japan. In the last edition of the Games, in Sochi, three participants from India made it to the final rounds but they plied their trade under the banner of 'Independent Participants at the 2014 Winter Olympics' as the Indian Olympic Association was suspended by the IOC in 2012. Himanshu Thakur, Nadeem Iqbal and Shiva Keshavan participated in the Alpine Skiing, Cross-country skiing and Luge events respectively.
This time though, India's tri-colour would be waving at the Pyeongchang Games beginning later this year. Shiv Keshavan will be making his sixth appearance at the Games and also the final one. The Luger is also the President of the Olympian's Association of India. Jagdish Singh, the cross-country skier will be making his debut at the showpiece event this year. As of now, a total of 92 nations are expected to compete in the 2018 Winter Olympics, the action of which will continue for more than 15 days. The PyeongChang Games will be the 23rd edition of the mega event and will kick-start with the opening ceremony on February 9. The 2018 Paralympics will also be hosted by the same venue and will get underway exactly a month after the Winter Games start.
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