Chandigarh/Manali, Jan 11
A day after winning a historic bronze medal at the Alpine Ejder 3200 Cup in Turkey, Manali’s Aanchal Thakur was basking in glory today.
The feat of the 21-year-old was noticed by the Indian government, with the Prime Minister and Sports Minister congratulating her, and Aanchal was overwhelmed with the accolades.
Aanchal had given India its first medal ever in skiing at an international event with her bronze in Turkey.
The young skier seemed as much surprised as elated with her path-breaking feat. “Finally something unexpected happened. My first ever international medal…,” she wrote on her Twitter handle after winning the medal.
Back home in Manali, her father Roshan Thakur, too, found it tough to believe. “When she showed me the medal, I thought it was a souvenir that every participant gets at the end of the tournament,” said Thakur. “We never thought about winning a medal, for us it was all about participation.”
Generally, self-depreciation isn’t the overriding sentiment in the wake of a historic feat, neither from an athlete nor from his/her parents. Thakur, however, showed no hesitation in admitting that they weren’t expecting a medal. “You won’t think of a medal if you know and understand the facilities and support our competitors get, and what our skiers get. There’s no comparison at all!,” said Thakur, who’s the secretary of the Winter Games Federation of India.
Better days ahead
Yet, against all odds, his daughter has managed to achieve the “unexpected”. “It’s a huge achievement, both on a personal level and for the sport. Until now, there had been little recognition and support, but maybe things would change now. Even the prime minister has lauded the feat, so we hope the sport will start getting its due,” said Thakur.
Aanchal, too, hopes her medal will ring in better days for the sport and its practitioners. “I hope we will now be treated at par with athletes of popular sports. Until now, there had been no support from the government,” said Aanchal. “I just want to say that we, too, are fighting, working hard day in and day for our country.”
Given that the Winter Olympics are scheduled to be held next month in South Korea, the medal couldn’t have come at a better time. However, despite the medal, Aanchal hasn’t made the cut for the Olympics yet. And given that January 21 is the cut-off qualification date, her chances don’t look too bright at the moment. “The qualification criterion is getting tougher with every Games. Anyway, thinking of an Olympics medal is outlandish at the moment. But yes, Aanchal has shown that we could be really competitive if we get the support and facilities our top competitors are getting,” said Thakur.
Passion the driving force
Thakur said it was his passion and involvement with the sport — he had been a skier himself — that prompted his son, Himanshu, and daughter take up the sport from a very young age. “Having been a skier myself, I know there was little recognition, encouragement and support for skiers. Yet, I wanted my kids to take up the sport. It keeps you close to the nature, and leaves a very positive impact on your life,” said Thakur.
He wasn’t expecting much when he prodded his kids into skiing. With his daughter winning the historic medal, and his son having participated in the last Winter Olympics at Sochi, maybe he can start expecting more laurels from them.