India's only international medallist in Skiing, the 25-year-old Aanchal Thakur, has always felt at home outside the confines of her house. She calls herself an outdoors person, but adds that her definition of 'outdoors' is not the same as most people.
"Exercising in the park is not outdoors for me. I come from the mountains, and for us, being outdoors means to be at one with nature. When I am out hiking or cycling in the hills, there is an element of meditation that comes with the adventure," she said.
"That is outdoors for me," she said.
Having taken up the sport of skiing at the age of 5, India's top winter sports athlete spent most of her earliest years walking up mountains and then sliding down the slope in the village of Burua near Manali, Himachal Pradesh.
Like every outdoor kid, she forgot when it would be time to go home, only realising she needed to rush back when it became dark.
"When I am at the top of the mountain, waiting to ski down the slope, I am nervous. I feel so small in front of nature. I feel humble, kind and respectful towards the mountain. Then as I begin skiing down and the wind hits my face, I feel free," Aanchal explained the rush of her sport.
"I feel like a bird when I am going down a mountain. In this world, birds are the freest creatures," she added.
But as is the problem for all outdoors people, confine them to a small space and they go crazy. Like Aanchal became last year when she came back to her village from Switzerland, only to find her entire village suspicious of her since she could have been carrying the Covid-19 virus from abroad.
Aanchal had competed in the Youth Winter Olympics back in 2012 before shooting into the limelight with her two international medals in 2018 and 2021 - becoming the first Indian skier to win medals of such stature in this winter sport. But just before the 2022 Winter Olympics, she found herself stopping in her tracks and climbing up the walls of her house.
"I have always drawn my entire energy from the outdoors and open spaces. All of that came to a sudden stop. I could only do balance training and ride the static cycle we have at home. I watched my chance to qualify for the Winter Olympics slip away in front of my eyes," she said.
Not only was Aanchal's training regimen severely affected, her lack of interest in books and movies meant that she did not have the distractions most others kept themselves busy with.
In June this year, Aanchal was back in business. And it was the unity she found with professional mountaineers which got her back on track.
She was part of a group of 80 women from 25 nations who created a world record for the longest women's rope team to climb a mountain as the group summitted the 4164m Mount Breithorn in Switzerland.
"I got such a lot of inspiration from the mountaineers in that group. I am more used to going down a mountain. Going up was much harder for me, but they kept pushing me. After all, it is passion that unites all sportspersons."
We proudly present this story to you in association with Myntra's #UnitedInSports campaign on the occasion of National Sports Day.