New Delhi: India's first Winter Olympian, Shiva Keshavan, on Monday urged the authorities to come forward and help the athletes who are left to battle all odds in their quest to bring laurels to the country.
Taking part in a panel discussion under the banner 'International Convention on Business of Sports', organised by Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) in Delhi, the youngest ever athlete to officially qualify for the Olympic Games in luge said, "We sportsmen are always very altruistic. We focus so much on doing well in our respective disciplines that nothing else matters to us. But, the government should come forward and help us nonetheless."
The 34-year-old athlete from Manali took part as an independent participant in 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics due to the suspension of Indian Olympic Association (IOA). However, as the ban was lifted while the Games were still on, he ended up competing under the Indian flag.
"I have taken part in five Winter Olympics without a coach. I always wanted to be trained under a good coach. But later, I realised that I wasted a lot of time chasing a lot of things," said Keshavan who finally found a coach in American Duncan Kennedy but had to part ways after a short stint due to financial constraints.
"The government was only paying for a part of his (Kennedy's) salary," he said.
The other two panelists -- national footballers Aditi Chauhan and Renedy Singh -- echoed the same sentiment. Aditi, the first Indian woman footballer to play competitive football in the UK, said that she has been fighting for a professional women's football league in the country without any ray of hope.
"For goalkeepers in football, positioning is everything. If that aspect of your game is not right, the rest will not fall in place. I always wanted to get that right under the watchful eyes of a coach. But, I have not come across a single goalkeeping coach in India who could rectify my mistakes," said the 23-year-old former West Ham United ladies' team goalkeeper who hails from Delhi.
Renedy too agreed. The former India international said that during his 12-year stint with Kolkata football (six years each for Mohun Bagan and East Bengal), he did not learn much from the coaches there.
"Only when I started playing for India, I came across coaches who had a lot to offer. I felt, I lost 10 years of my career," said the 36-year-old former midfielder from Manipur.