Indians at Sochi Olympics
The Winter Olympics begin on Friday in Sochi, Russia
Indians at Sochi
The Sochi winter games in Russia will have three Indian athletes competing in three of the 15 Olympic sports.
Alpine skiing involves racing downhill on snow-covered slopes at high speeds (averaging 100 km/hr). There are five Olympic disciplines in this sport – downhill, slalom, giant slalom, super giant and super combination.
While downhill involves racing down a ski slope at the maximum speed, slalom requires skiing down a slope crossing markers such as flags and gates. The giant slalom, super giant and super combination are different combinations of downhill and slalom.
At just 20 years, Manali skier Himanshu Thakur will be the youngest participant in Sochi – his specialties being the giant slalom and slalom events.
Incidentally, Himanshu’s cousin Hira Lal was the fourth athlete to qualify for the games but could not participate as India was reserved just one berth and Himanshu’s performances in recent competitions were better than his cousin’s.
Hira Lal had represented the country in the event in the Turin Olympics in 2006. In 2013, Himanshu participated in his first Alpine Ski World championships in Austria where he did not progress beyond the qualifying stage.
The oldest form of skiing, cross-country skiing involves travelling on large snowfields using skis and poles. Unlike alpine skiing where you race downhill, cross-country skiing is used to cover large, flat fields with small bumps in the terrain.
The Sochi games feature six disciplines in the sport – individual race, mass start, skiathlon, relay, individual sprint and team sprint.
Nadeem Iqbal, from Jammu’s Rajouri district, will represent India in cross-country skiing. At 30, Iqbal is also the first Kashmiri soldier to qualify for the games.
He joined the Jammu and Kashmir light infantry division in 2003. A year later, he was taken into the Army’s High Altitude Warfare School in Gulmarg to train in skiing where he now trains others in the sport. Iqbal finished fourth in the 2011 Asian winter games in Kazakhstan.
Luge racing, similar to sledding, is considered one of the dangerous sports in the winter games. Lugers slide on frozen ice tracks, one at a time, and the fastest racer is the winner. The athletes start by kicking the sled in a sitting position and then lie on the sled when it starts moving.
The direction of the sled is changed by shifting the position of the body. The Olympic programme has four disciples in this sport – men’s and women’s singles, men’s doubles and team relay which was added this year.
The most experienced Indian athlete in the fray is Shiva Keshavan who will participate in his fifth winter Olympics having represented the country in the games since 1998. He won the gold medal at the Luge Asia cup in 2011 and 2012 and a silver medal in the 2013 edition. His 2012 performance also set the Asian track record of 49.59 seconds. His participation at the 1998 Nagano games made him the youngest Indian Olympian ever to compete at the age of 16.