Snow queen Aanchal Thakur hungry for more medalsMay 19, 2018, Manali
In January this year, the entire country awoke to the fact that winter sports ‘skiing’ existed and was thriving in India
The Manali skier became the first Indian skier to win a medal in the International Ski Federation (FIS) race, winning bronze in Turkey.
Now, basking in her newfound glory, she’s hungry for more international medals to popularise the sport and ensure it is included in the priority list of the sports ministry.
“Till the time I won a medal nobody, except for the couple of skiing pockets in the hill states of Himachal and J&K, were aware that the country too has professional skiers. The exposure to skiing in India was limited to a winter activity mostly done by the tourists. But the medal changed people’s perspective, especially in the plains, and now they consider us as sportspersons,” says Aanchal, a student of DAV College, Chandigarh.
“Now my next target is to add a couple of more medals to my current tally in the coming winter season so that the sports ministry is forced to include skiing in its priority list of sports disciplines. And this is the only way to get money into the sport,” she adds.
Till now, skiing is in the general list, which means that apart from multidiscipline games, for all other foreign exposures or the winter games federation of India, the skiers have to bear the expenses from their own pocket.
“In Western countries, skiing is considered to be an elite sport because of the money required in pursuing this sport, but in India it is followed by the people in the rural areas of the hilly states. And most of the time because of scarcity of funds, real talent can pursue the sport up to a certain level only,” says Aanchal, whose next target is qualifying for the 2022 Olympics. This time she couldn’t make it to the quadrennial games.
In Europe, North America or even in Asian countries such as Japan and China, which are the skiing powerhouses, there is a window of a minimum of eight to 10 months for winter sports, but in India the cold lasts for a maximum of three to four months, and that too with very little chances of snowfall.
“In India, we neither have the required facilities for the sport, nor do we get government funding. Above all, we have only three months in a year to train. Despite all these odds our winter sportspersons are ready to take on the world,” says Aanchal, who is planning to travel to Europe in September for training.
“I am lucky that my family is there to support my foreign training but for most of the skiers it is next to impossible. So, my only request to the government (both state and Central) is to take the sport under its fold. This will not only improve the standard of the sport, but will also help in generating conducive environment for skiing, which will also give a boost to the tourism industry and help in improving the economy of rural areas of the hilly states,” says Aanchal.