Indian luger preps for sixth and final Olympic trip

Shiva Keshavan is most likely not going to medal in the Pyeongchang Olympics.

That does not make him irrelevant.

His name becomes heard worldwide once every four decades, due to his story: A man from India, where there’s not any terrific winter sports legacy to talk about, belongs to the Olympics — at luge of all things. When he competes in Pyeongchang, it is going to be his sixth and almost certainly last time as an Olympian. He has never finished better than 25th in an Olympics, and he will not be regarded as a podium contender this February.

Ask him if it was worth it, and he does not hesitate before saying yes.

“I did not do this for others to look at my story,” Keshavan stated. “I did it for myself. I did it to improve myself and I believe I’ve come a very long way. Until today I have learned a lot, travelled the world, met people throughout the world and I have been blessed to do that. And, well, if other men and women look at me, I know they will respect me for what I did.”

Keshavan was doomed by sled issues and finished 31st at a 35-slider Nations Cup event on Thursday night at Mount Van Hoevenberg, meaning he will not be competing in Friday’s World Cup event. Only the top 15 in the Nations Cup advanced.

But that doesn’t dissuade him, and never has. Keshavan’s mindset continues to be infectious among other sliders for many years, and it is clear he will be missed if this — as he anticipates — is the end of his Olympic journey.

“It is really kind of like a community that you are a part of, and it is something that’s really tough to let go,” said longtime USA Luge slider Chris Mazdzer, among the numerous on the luge circuit that believes Keshavan a fantastic friend. “It is a good deal of fun traveling, competing all over the world with a terrific group of individuals.”

Keshavan is kind of an unofficial member of several national teams.

Keshavan calls Lake Placid his home track, though it’s 7,000 miles from the Himalayan region that’s his real home. When he completed his race Thursday night, Australians and Ukrainians were among the first to offer him words of congratulations. And last week Keshavan got help from a Croatian just so that he could compete.

Keshavan’s sled broke, so Daria Obratov offered hers. It was way too little for Keshavan, rather than just contoured for him, but he used it anyway to complete the Nations Cup race in Calgary, Alberta — that basically clinched his place for Pyeongchang.

“Although we represent various nations, the Olympic spirit knows no boundaries,” Obratov stated.

Keshavan made his Olympic debut as a 16-year-old in Nagano in 1998, when he put 28th. He has been an Olympic routine since, placing 33rd in Salt Lake City in 2002, 25th in Turin in 2006, 29th in Vancouver in 2010 and 37th in Sochi four winters past.

He has always been somewhere about five or 10 seconds behind the gold medallists at the final Olympic standings. He’s much closer in World Cup races, where sliders compete in two runs rather than the Olympic four. And he has not exploited the system — although he is not just an Olympic medallist , he’s competitive.

In any case, he will be a six-time Olympian. That is more of a legacy than he ever envisioned.

“I gave my best,” Keshavan stated. “Maybe that’s what I would like to be remembered for: He gave his best and he never gave up.”

Courtesy: The Globe And Mail