It’s an uphill climb before the glorious downhill can even begin. Aanchal Thakur won India its first international medal in skiing at Turkey this week, five years after she started travelling to snow scapes abroad to compete. But the maiden bronze only highlighted how this country crowned by the Himalayas has failed to wake up to winter sports.
Thakur, coached and funded by her father in her early years, has made the most of this access to training and equipment — howsoever rudimentary it may have been. With a parent, a serving official of the skiing federation, to back her dreams, Aanchal stayed resilient through these five non-descript years, before the first of her successes fetched up. It needs no reiteration that most Indians can only dream of securing such training and travel facilities. She showed determination to literally stay the course of the snaking slalom course at Turkey. However, it is the emergence of Anice Das, a Mumbai girl adopted by Dutch parents as a child, that should give India hope in winter sports. Her qualification in ice skating for the Netherlands shows that with the right facilities and access, Indians too can do well on the slopes.
If India’s most favoured sport, cricket, obsesses about the perfect pitch, winter sports — sliding and skiing — need customised courses. A country flanked by snowy mountain tops in the north and east has plenty of the white fields. Aanchal’s medal would have achieved something enduring if it spurs local governments to nurture winter sports.