India have been officially barred from participating in the Winter Olympics which is scheduled to take place in Sochi, Russia from 7th to 23rd February. The International Olympic Committee had suspended the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) in 2012, and the suspension can only be lifted when the IOA holds fresh elections for its office bearers, which is not going to happen before the start of the Games.
All of which means that there won’t be any official Indian representation at the Sochi Olympics.
But even though India’s flag won’t be seen at Sochi next month, Indians will still be able to watch three of their countrymen doing their best to win a medal at the event.
Shiva Keshavan, Himanshu Thakur and Nadeem Iqbal are the three Indians who will be participating at the Winter Olympics, playing as independent athletes under the Olympic flag, instead of the Indian flag.
Here is a profile of each of these Indian athletes who would be present at Sochi on 7th February.
Claim to fame: 1st Indian to represent country at Winter Olympics; youngest-ever luge participant
Hailing from Manali, Himachal Pradesh, Shiva Keshavan has been representing India internationally as luge pilot since 1997. He became the youngest-ever luge participant at the 1998 Olympics when he entered the event as a 16-year-old.
He was the sole Indian representative at that edition of the Winter Olympics in Japan, where he came 28th. Also, he was the only Indian athlete at the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, USA, where he finished 33rd. Keshavan finished 25th at the 2006 Winter Olympics in Torino, Italy, and 31st (first run*) and 28th (second run*) at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, Canada.
* During major national and international events, men’s singles consists of four runs. The cumulative time of all runs is used to determine finish order.
Among his other achievements, Keshavan has won gold medals at the Asia Cup 2011 and 2012 in Nagano. He is the Asian Speed Record Holder – 134.3 km/h (83.5 mph), and the Asian Track Record Holder – 49.590 seconds. In addition, he was a silver medallist at the Asian Championships 2009-10 in Nagano, and a bronze medallist at the Asian Championships 2008-09, again in Nagano.
Keshavan’s personal best till date is a 14th place finish at the Nations Cup in Altenberg, January 2009.
His top speed is 149.9 km/h (93.1 mph) (Vancouver Speed Record).
As the most accomplished player of the three-member contingent, Keshavan will be the country’s best hope to grab a medal at the Games.