In the lead-up to the Sochi Winter Games,Shiva Keshavan hopes to travel and train as part of the US luge team. This will help me to get a better quality of coaching and hopefully learn a lot of new techniques. I can also expect a lot of support from their team doctors as well, the 32-year-old says,as he embarked on the official Training Week in Innsbruck,Austria.
Looking to travel to his fifth Olympics,Shiva has struggled to stitch together a concrete partnership on the technical front,and has relied solely on his in-house engineering team. Shiva hopes that he can tag along with the Americans since he cannot afford a personal coach.
Over the summer,Shiva completed two weeks of training in Lillhammer,and two weeks in Albertville,venues of the 1994 and 1992 Olympic Games,and most recently trained in Norway on the first track in the world to get iced which is where winter athletes typically start pre-season training.
The agenda there was to get 15 days of intense training to get used to the speeds and G-force of luge. I will be keen to get back my rhythm and feel for the ice, he says. With two sessions of ice training per day and one session of physical training,Norway was less about timings and more about finding his footing. He seemed to have closed the gap since last year,and was only 0.6s off the Italians,who were themselves still testing the frozen waters.
There are nine World Cups scheduled this year as well as the Asian Championships where Shiva defends his title before the Olympics in February. With a bit of cushioning from sponsorship enough for complete pre-season training and to be able to plan for the first five World Cups,but not enough for a personal coach Shiva’s first challenge is to remain among the world’s top 37 seeds,which is mandatory to confirm his Olympic entry.
UNDER THE OLYMPIC FLAG
If the Indian Olympic Association remains suspended,Shiva could become the first Indian athlete compelled to compete under the Olympic flag. Because of this,the existing trickle of funding available to Olympians in non-traditional sports is now down to stray droplets. The National Olympic Committee and the National Sports Federation havent been part of our sources of finance. The Sports Ministry helped us somewhat last time, he says.
Shiva’s team are working on the aerodynamic design and vibration absorption of his sled,to try and help him gain the few tenths of a second that currently separate him from an Olympic medal. The four-time Olympian still relies on ‘jugaad’,for for want of better-performing equipment.
Tinkering with the balance of the sled and the bow of the steel to see which set-up helps him achieve greater speed,Shiva has changed all his equipment from last season. I have a pod that fits me better,my bridges are of a different angle from last year and my steels are longer,which should give me more stability while steering, he says.
Shiva,who had been troubled by a double ligament tear for the last two years,took to physiotherapy and yoga to deal with the crisis. The injury seems to have healed and I am quite fit in terms of resistance and flexibility after my rehabilitation. I still need to do a lot of power training to put on some more weight and power for the start, he says. Starts are all-important in luge to generate acceleration and momentum for the slide down the track,while bodyweight is crucial for Shiva,since he is ligher on the sled compared to the Europeans,whose strength helps them withstand the extreme G-forces of tight turns at high speeds.
Ultimately,though,the one constant in Shiva’s career,which has brought him to the cusp of his fifth Olympics,is his enthusiasm for a sport that exists way beyond even the fringe in his country. No hurdle and there have been several has punctured his fervour to maximise his potential. The two-time Asian champ (Asian Speed Record Holder 134.3 kmph and Asian Track Record Holder 49.590 seconds) whose best outing at the Olympics was a 25th place at Turin in 2006,is readying for another go on the white track.