Updated: Aug 4, 2019
“Without the support of the nation, the goal remains just a dream! I have spent sleepless nights only imagining the future of Skiing and its identity as a sport in India. There have been days when I felt my efforts are so pointless; to confess, I feel alone and scared.”
Alwyn Kanwar, 21 year old Alpine Skier from Himachal Pradesh, while in conversation with The Inspire Crew describes the uncertainties they face that leave aspiring athletes daunted.
He is the youngest Alpine Skiing athlete among the top three and currently ranked as the best Indian Athlete in Slalom and Giant Slalom to enter the Winter Olympics, China 2022.
To qualify for the Olympics a skiing athlete needs to participate five tournament races organised by The Fédération Internationale de Ski (FIS) with a score maintained below 140 points for each race.
Decades together there have been talks about dying sports in India through the generations, but seldom do we think about sports like Alpine Skiing that are not even given a chance to live. Our country India is versatile in more ways than many and yet there is an existence of rigidity when it comes to giving preference.
To learn someone has brought the nation pride is only gratifying till you realize the lack of support these athletes receive to train to be invincible.
Talking about the basics, a good reliable set for skiing can cost between Rs. 5 - 10 lakhs to compete. But, one of the major hiccups endured by the skiers here is finding snow.
To be the best, European ski athletes practice all year round to enter World Championships. “Most of our time is invested in chasing the ideal snow at high altitudes”, states Alwyn.
Sometimes he treks for five to six hours in search of snow. For bare minimum, a practice pitch needs snow beaters (that costs a bomb) to make the skiing path uniform which enhances the fluidity amongst skiers along with well embedded hard plastic poles to meander through the downhill slide.
The points criteria in the competing tournaments also include sliding off cliffs and hurdles with finesse, which is usually man-made and well sculpted to support the sport. For Alwyn, to even hunt a well-placed rock covered with smooth snow is a stiff challenge.
“While growing up we witnessed the thick powder snowfall for at least four months. Now with Global Warming and the effects of climate change, we hardly receive snowfall for two months and usually, it is the case of wet snow which melts away within 24 hrs”, says Alwyn.
The Winter Games Federation of India (WGFI) provides no funding for the athletes. The information on training camps and tournaments held globally are only provided to top athletes who can make the cut.
The maximum support provided by WGFI is a recommendation letter to participate in these training. The cost has to be borne by the athletes themselves; hence leaving amateur but ambitious athletes clueless and nowhere.
“Skiing in India requires a lot of perseverance, dedication, hard work and heavy investment from our own pockets” (as quoted by Alwyn to searchindie.com).
With the Never-Back-Down attitude, Alwyn travels to countries like Turkey, Japan, and Italy to find the well-groomed slopes to work on his techniques and to skill up to the international standards.
The athletes also have to save aside budgets for physiotherapists and medical assistance during their practice periods. An entire round trip with 20-30 days of training costs an athlete up to Rs. 4 lakhs.
Without funding, this burns a great whole in their urns and the only aid is his family who believes in him. Amidst the struggle of making ends meet, Alwyn is battling it out to find himself promising sponsors.
In spite of wearing the Indian Badge with dignity and representing the country at various World Tournaments, there is rarely any acknowledgement and funding from our government.
“I hate to admit, but it’s our geographical location that decides our passion.”
He goes on to explain what adds to the dilemma, “Serious training from an early age helps an athlete to mould their bodies most quintessential for the sport. With age, the process of the body developing these strengths gets slower. I am racing against time and conditions to make my dream of winning the Gold come true.”
The hardships don’t end just there. The Indian Alpine Skiers are often found juggling between their passion and education to build a reliable career.
With deep sighs he mentions, “The international glories achieved by the skiers go in vain since the Indian Universities don’t recognise them as a sport and hence criteria for admission. More and more talented skiers are dropping out, burying their dreams and walking into an austere livelihood.”
On asking Alwyn what he thinks causes the ‘disconnect’ for them, he mentioned, “If media wants, they can be a great support system for us; help us put our word out there, ring up the curtain on our situation. Sadly, they rather cover a flawed story or a joke that will gain them more viewership.”
Inspire Crew is supporting Alwyn Kanwar to document his journey and to put out a word seeking sponsors. While we run our current project, 'Project Wild Women’ a documentary on women in extreme sports in India.
Did you know India participated in Luge in Winter Olympics 1998? Moreover, do you know what ‘Luge’ is?
This country does not fall short of extraordinarily talented individuals who want to qualify in more extreme sports categories like snowboarding, cross-country skiing, ice skating, and other Winter Sports. Only the support in time could decide their fate in these adventures.
“Despite the odds, Alwyn’s focus has been incredibly strong. His ‘in it, to win it’ approach towards his passion has been an inspiring aura surrounding us in his presence”, they mention.
Inspire Crew believes that if the nation gives more credibility to extreme and alternative sports, more and more people will break out of their limits and find their venturous stand.
The only person who stood witnessing Aanchal Thakur’s victory at the 2018 Alpine Edjer 3200 Cup (first ever international win for the country in this genre) was Alwyn Kanwar. The honoring moment was rather a ray of hope that Alwyn saw for himself and other Indian athletes in the Winter Games.
Funding link: https://www.ketto.org/fundraiser/missionolympic
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