With India handed just three quotas by the Federation Internationale De Ski, the Winter Games Federation of India (WGFI) had to choose between two Alpine skiiers – Hira Lal and Himanshu Thakur for the lone spot in the event, after both had secured qualification criterion for the event.
Younger contender Himanshu, 20, will make the trip to Sochi for the Winter Olympics, based on “better performance and timings” according to Roshan Lal Thakur, WGFI Secretary.
In fact, Alpine Skiing is an all-family affair, with Hira Lal and Himanshu Thakur being first cousins. And it was 34-year-old Hira Lal’s decision to withdraw his name in order for his 20-year-old cousin that helped make the choice easier.
“Himanshu had better performances than Hira in the giant slalom category. Hira has always supported Himanshu and made it clear in writing that he preferred his younger cousin to participate in the Games this time,” said Roshan Lal Thakur, who is Himanshu’s father and Hira’s mother’s brother. “His timings have been encouraging and we’re looking to him to win medals at Asian Championships in the future,” he added.
Thakur has a better record in terms of finishes over the past 20 events, having finished at a higher position than Lal on eight out of the 12 occasions where both skiiers completed the race. His best position was 12, while Hira Lal’s was 16, though Thakur had 6 DNFs in his last 20 runs, as against Lal’s none. As per the international federation point system, Himanshu is 111.20 and Hira Lal is 111.43 – with lower being the better.
“It’s always nice to have someone in the family go for these big tournaments, but there was a little more excitement when Hira Lal qualified for the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin. He was the first Indian to qualify for the event, so it was a big thing for us,” Thakur said.
Four Indians had made the qualification grade, but in the list put out by the international federation, India was given only three quotas. Shiva Keshavan in luge, Himanshu Thakur in Alpine Skiing and Nadeem Iqbal in Cross Country will now take part. A final list will be released on 19 January, but the Indian participation is tipped to stay at 3 with no more additions.The three Indians will take part in Sochi Winter Olympics as Independent Athletes under the banner of International Olympic Committee as the Indian Olympic Association has been under suspension for more than a year.