Lack of fund forces Asian silver medalist Shiva Keshavan to pull out from World Circuit, urges sports minister for support

Shiva Keshavan Indian Luge Player with medalWhile the nation comes together to celebrate the 65th Republic day and India’s tricolour is proudly hoisted along the length and breadth of the country, it will be conspicuous in its absence in the Luge World Championships and the Luge World Cup circuit for the first time in 20 years.

This is because the Indian team has pulled out of the remainder of the international circuit because it has not been funded.

The Luge World Championship is the most important sports event after the Olympic Games. And the Indian team comprised of Shiva Keshavan, a 5-time Olympian and current Asian silver medallist, and his coach, Duncan Kennedy Shiva Keshavan has been in the news recently for winning the silver medal at the Asian Championships in Japan on the 27th of December 2015, ending the first half of the 2015/16 winter on a high.

Galvanised by the result, the 34-year-old Luge pilot was eyeing glory at the World Championships to be held next week in Germany and was in Delhi to

submit his funding application to the upcoming races. With no favourable response despite the podium finish in his previous race, Shiva has been forced to

cut his season short.

Coach Resigns

Shiva Keshavan’s American coach, Duncan Kennedy has decided to quit since he has not been paid complete salary in 2015. Holder of 21 World titles, and former Technical Director of the USA luge team, Duncan Kennedy had begun working with Shiva in 2014 and strongly believed that the Indian athlete had the potential to bring more laurels to the country. “I am amazed and surprised at how a country like India cannot come up with money to pay the expenses of a 5-time Olympian. Shiva is such a great ambassador for India. His dedication to his country and his sport, his international performance and his conduct has brought India much glory and admiration wherever he has taken the Indian Flag.

I already knew some of the difficulties Indian athletes face due to funding, but no professional coach can work without being paid.”

Duncan was Shiva’s first and only personal coach. In late 2015, the Sports Ministry had agreed to pay Duncan his Salary but capped it at one-third the amount leaving Shiva the task of paying for his coach out of his own pocket.

Results without recognition

Recognition for winter sports has been a bitter affair for our country’s sportspersons. In fact until 1998 Winter Sports were part of the Sports Ministry’s list of ‘Priority Sports”. Ironically, the very year that Winter Sports was removed from the priority list, Shiva Keshavan became the first Indian to qualify for the

Winter Olympics. Almost two decades later, the status of winter sports has not got any better. Out of the 8 medals won by Shiva Keshavan at the Asian Championships only one has received an acknowledgement and reward by the Sports Ministry so far.

National Sports Federation

The National Sports Federation for Luge also known as the Indian Amateur Luge Association(IALA) is run by Mrs. Deepa Mehta. Mrs Mehta is the wife of the current Secretary General of the Indian Olympic Association Mr. Rajeev Mehta.

Despite the sports links to high profile Sports administrators, the 5 Olympic Games or 8 Asian Medals, the IALA is not a recognised body by the sports

ministry. The absence of a recognized federation has evidently hampered the sport in India. Aside from Shiva’s troubles, even the Junior Luge team has not

participated in any race for over a year due to lack of funds.

Intermittent support

The Sports ministry has come to Shiva’s aid in the past through the NSDF (National Sports Development Fund). This fund enables the Ministry to support

outstanding athletes directly, without going through the federation. However the NSDF support has been intermittent at best. The total grant from NSDF to Shiva

for the past 2 years has been Rs. 10 lakhs, sanctioned as part reimbursement for his coach salary. No other expenses such as training, equipment, travel, boarding and lodging has been granted neither for Shiva nor his coach.

World Ranking

Athletes compete in 9 international races to collect world cup points for the annual ranking. In Shiva’s case, he was able to raise points in just 3 out of the 9

races he could afford to go to last season. He was consequently ranked 39th in the world according to last years’ overall standing.

Future Plans

After withdrawing from the remainder of this winter’s International races, Shiva is planning ahead. At present he has no sponsors either.

“I have approached the Honourable Sports Minister to consider the 20 years of ervice I have given for my country and my sport. Since there is no recognized

federation, it is up to the Minister’s discretion to make a special case and sanction funds through NSDF. I am also approaching corporates for support

through sponsorships or CSR initiatives”, said Shiva