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One year after historic international medal, skier Anchal Thakur still waits for support

One year after historic international medal, skier Anchal Thakur still waits for support

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Published: 26 Jan 2019 2:38 PM GMT
In January 2018, Anchal Thakur made history by becoming the first Indian skier to win an international medal in the discipline when she won the Bronze at the Alpine Ejder 3200 Cup organised by the Fédération Internationale de Ski in Turkey. She definitely shot into the limelight given that 2018 was the year of the Winter Olympics. Since then, India's Alpine skier has faded from the public limelight. Part of it is the result of the step-motherly treatment winter sports receives from most of its stakeholders and part of it, can just be chalked down to simple geography. India is not a region where winter sports could naturally thrive.
"It's finally snowing now in Manali for the last month,"
says Anchal in conversation with The Bridge. "Otherwise all I did since the medal in Turkey was concentrate on physical training, continuing my studies and waiting for it to snow." Anchal, incidentally, was in full preparation mode for the State Championships which are scheduled to take place in Manali starting tomorrow. If she does well there, she has full faith that she will be making the National team again and consequently, be back to competing internationally again where, hopefully, this break in momentum will not hamper her performance.

But circumstances have certainly changed.

In January 2018, the country recognised the Winter Games Federation of India as the apex body governing all winter sports and athletes in the country. Anchal's father Mr Roshan Lal Thakur was the Secretary of the now defunct organisation. Since it got derecognised due to faulty elections in the month of March, the situation surrounding Winter Games is in more peril than it formerly was.
Also read: Winter Games Federation and the changing face of Indian Winter Sports
"Money is definitely one big problem," Anchal observes. "Because of the tropical climate in our country, winter sports is not a priority because the weather does not allow it. So, equipment and infrastructure tend to cost more."
"The Central Government is a far ask. Truthfully speaking, I have not seen any active participation from the State Government of Himachal either. There are things like chair lifts that need to be installed on the ski slopes. There has been the talk of that for a number of years but nothing has come off it." "In fact, the sum of Rs 5 lakhs that I was promised after my international medal- I still haven't got it," she laughs ruefully but hastily adds, "but I think eventually I will get it. I just do not know when." "That money was supposed to be for my training abroad. But since that did not happen, we had to wait for snow here,"
she sighs. Her family has been at the centre of Winter sports, both competitively and administratively. Her father, former Secretary of WGFI and current member of the ad-hoc Committee which was set up in its stead is a former skier himself. Himanshu Thakur, her brother- an Olympian and cousins Varsha and Hira Lal Thakur who are also international skiers. But for the discipline itself, it seems to have undergone a major overhaul since the Indian Olympic Association took charge of it by default. "The Winter Games Federation of India used to send us for the Senior World Championships at every edition. This year, it is taking place in Sweden and the IOA decided to not send an Indian contingent,"
she said. "So, international exposure becomes significantly less." "It's a very vicious circle. India does not perform well in Indian sports, there is no snow, not enough time to practice- the participation is limited to Himachal, Uttarakhand and Jammu Kashmir and it's an expensive discipline to pursue," she observes. "There are so many factors working against us that it is never a priority for the people in charge. There are no sponsors- not even enough for a bare six months of training." "Had I been able to practice even a minimum amount in 2018, I could have said that my preparation for the next Olympics had begun." "I want to aim for a medal," Anchal adds. "But the road ahead is tough." But despite all of this, Anchal's optimistic attitude towards the future of Winter Sports in India remains unshaken. "If the WGFI is reinstated any time soon, it will be a good thing. They know and understand winter sports more than the IOA." India's first and only yet international ski medalist definitely is a bright prospect for Indian winter sports. But the support she looks out for continues to elude her. Only time will tell us if this situation is all set for improvement.
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