National Sports Awards 2020: 'Kept believing mera time aayega,' says luge legend Shiva Keshavan on belated Arjuna recommendation
'I kept believing, mera time ayega (my time will come), and maybe it is finally here. Everything in life happens at the best time,' India's luge exponent Shiva Keshavan said.
New Delhi: Shiva Keshavan was sitting in Wayanad, working on the concept note detailing the future of luge in India when his phone started to buzz. A steady stream of WhatsApp messages and Twitter notifications indicated that he has been recommended for this year's Arjuna Award, among the country's topmost recognition for athletes.
"It has not sunk in yet. I am honoured and humbled. It is massive news for me and I am really happy that it has finally happened," he told Firstpost, barely able to contain his excitement.
Shiva, the only international-level luger from India in over two decades, represented the country in six consecutive Winter Olympics, beginning from Japan's Nagano in 1998 to PyeongChang in South Korea in 2018. He called time on his career after his sixth and final Olympics appearance two years back.
In 2012, the luge federation had sent Shiva's name for the Arjuna Award, but he missed out. This time, he applied in the 'self-nomination' category that was introduced in light of the COVID-19 situation, but was not expecting to make the cut. Tuesday's announcement, coming as it did a week before his birthday, arrived as a pleasant surprise.
"Yes, it was a big, big surprise. I was initially not keen on applying (for the award), but a friend coaxed me into it. I eventually thought that if I have to take the sport to people, maybe it will be nice if I do think of these things. So, I applied but had absolutely no hope of getting shortlisted.
"Look, it is fair to say that this award has come a bit late in my career, but at least there is a start. All through my career, I never thought of any awards as I had much more important stuff, such as funding, to worry about. When I started out, maybe for the initial few years, I think I wished for some recognition, but later it became my personal journey. I kept believing, mera time aayega (my time will come), and maybe it is finally here. Everything in life happens at the best time, as ordained," he added philosophically.
This year's national sports awards have already landed itself in controversy given the unusually high number of Arjuna recommendations (29) besides an unprecedented five Khel Ratnas. Then, there's the grouse of those who have been ignored, such as boxer Manoj Kumar's coach Rajesh Kumar. Rajesh has been working at the grassroots for over two decades now, and after being left out for this year's Dronacharya Award he tweeted that he is considering legal advice on the matter.
For Shiva though, the belated applause means a fresh, positive start to the next phase of his career. There is no bitterness or umbrage at denials and slights from the past.
"I have had a long career, marked with some really memorable highs. There was not much recognition when I started, but I have no complaints. I don't look back at the past with any ill feelings. I accepted it as my destiny and moved on."
This year, thanks partly to the coronavirus -induced lockdown, Shiva has been a lot more public, participating in webinars and online sessions on various forums. The visibility, he reckons, should help to raise awareness about winter sports in the country.
"Yeah, this year has been quite lucky in that regard. Even before the pandemic, I spoke at a CII conclave on winter sports in Mumbai on the prospects of winter sports. Then, of course, during the lockdown, there have been a few webinars that I have done. Sometime back I was made the chief coach and high-performance director of luge in India, and now this (Arjuna Award). So yes, in an odd sort of way, this has been a great year for me," he said.
Shiva's storied career was stymied by lack of funds and infrastructure as the Luge Federation of India, like all winter sports federations, continues to remain unrecognised by the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports. That meant he could never claim any monetary assistance from the Sports Authority of India which translated into paying for his travel and training from his own pocket. He, however, is hopeful that a change in fortune might be round the corner.
"I am positive. That (government recognition) will be a big step for the sport. I am getting all the right signals so far, and I am hoping for the best. Once that is done, I am sure the sport will get the fillip and recognition it truly deserves. I am keen on sending a few teams abroad for training and getting the talent scouting part of my job going," he added before returning to his unfinished concept notes.
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