India is known for its diversified culture and traditions. But one can’t deny the fact that India has a rich history of sports too. For a country to grow, the sports industry is one of the important industries which help a nation to develop. It also helps to develop the feeling of companionship and the spirit of friendly competition.
Talking about India’s past, gone are those days when India was considered to be the non-sporting nation with cricket being an exception and the only major sport in India which stopped the growth of the much deserving industry. In the last 5-7 years, the country experienced a major drift in this industry. The Indian sports scene is making its path beyond the game of cricket towards a plethora of sports, resulting in the growth of participation, viewership, and sports-related industries.
It results in a positive impact on the overall development of the personality. Brilliance in sports enhances a person’s sense of achievement, national pride, and patriotism. Sports give millions a reason to be proud of which country they belong to. The biggest example we have seen in recent times is India’s performance in the Olympics Games.
Undoubtedly, Tokyo 2020 has been the most successful Olympic Games in Indian history. The 2020 Tokyo Olympics, featured India's biggest contingent of athletes ever. Winning a total of 7 medals, making this the most decorated tally in India’s history. The same could be said of the Paralympics games too, with 19 medals.
Do you know the history of India in the Winter Olympics; how many times has the nation participated and have they ever won any medals at this major competition?
To begin with, it’s a known fact that apart from Cricket, which is the most followed sport, India has achieved great success in a lot of other sports too. Clearly in India, the Summer Olympics is way more celebrated in comparison to the winter Olympics. Winter Olympics is also a mega international multi-sports event held every 4 years. The only difference is that this event is specifically for sports practiced on snow and ice. Let’s dig a little into the emergence of the Winter Olympic Games and India’s participation in it.
A brief history
The first Winter Olympic Games, the 1924 Winter Olympics, were held in Chamonix, France. However, India’s first participation in the Winter Games didn’t begin until the 1964 event in Innsbruck, Austria, when a delegation was sent to compete. The only athlete representing India was Jeremy Bujakowski, who competed in the men's downhill event in alpine skiing. He failed to finish the race and went unranked in the competition.
Initially, India’s participation in the Winter Olympics lacked some consistency. It took India another 20 years after their first foray, to enter the event again in 1988. However, since then they have participated in all the games that have been held to date. Unfortunately, India has not yet been able to open its account in the medal tally.
The reason behind the lack of medals?
There could be many probable reasons behind the lack of medals won at the Winter Olympic Games. It could be a combination of climatic conditions, lack of support or facilities for winter sports in the country, or maybe a funding issue that has contributed towards India lagging behind other nations in the Winter Olympics.
To help sports grow in any nation, Government support is something that plays a crucial part. India has performed to the best of its ability in the most recent Tokyo 2020 Games because the Government played an important role in support, both in terms of financial and every other kind of training and infrastructure required. Indian performance on the international stage and in many fields of sport has improved over the past few years. This is due in part, to the full support given to the athletes by the government.
In that case, if a particular section of sports is not getting full support from its federation and government then it will be difficult for anyone to perform to the best of their ability. The same could be said of the category of sports which falls under the Winter Olympics in terms of their participation. It’s disheartening to know that not a single Winter Sports federation is currently recognized and eligible for funding in India. This has led to a lack of participants representing India in the Olympics, which has resulted in zero medals in this same mega event.
There is one exception to India’s lack of representation in Winter Olympic Sports and that is someone who has been flying the flag for India during the last few years. He is Shiva Keshavan. Shiva completed his sixth and his final Olympics in Pyeongchang in 2018.
Representing India in the Winter Olympics has never been easy for Shiva. He struggled a lot to fund his participation. His Olympic trip was made possible through crowdfunding and has also had to previously compete with a borrowed sled. With little by way of funds or support, he has managed a credible showing. Along with shiva, Jagdish Singh who competes in the cross-country skiing event is the only other athlete who represented India in the last edition of the Winter Olympics held in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
Shiva's story tells us the struggle of athletes to participate in the Winter Olympic Games. On numerous occasions, Shiva called upon the Government to take the necessary steps to make federations recognized, therefore enabling them to be considered eligible for funding.
This lack of recognition has been to the detriment of India being able to win an actual medal at the Winter Olympics throughout the years. Winter Sports need an equal amount of support that is afforded to other sports by the Government, in order for India to truly flourish at the Winter Games.
After the strides that were made at Tokyo 2020, we are in a position where we can only grow from now on. Our objective should be to get better with every passing year and season in the sport. Sport in India is growing exponentially. We have to get on the train. The key to success is to keep moving in the direction of progress and to keep learning from the best practices around the world. It is critical to take a long-term view, be patient and work in the right direction to grow in each sport equally.