Six Olympians officiating, coaching athletes at Khelo India Games pitch for holding int’l event at Gulmarg

Shiva Keshavan, Arif Khan, Nanak Chand, Chuni Thakur for more medals by local youth

GULMARG: With over 600 players and officials participating in the Khelo India Winter Games, what catches the bull’s eye are the six Olympians officiating the event, training the athletes, and providing technical guidance to the organizers. The engagement of Olympians with enormous experience has augmented the importance of the 4th Edition of Khelo Indian Winter Games.
Six-time Winter Olympian in Luge, Sheva Keshavan, who is also the Indian Olympic Association Adhoc Committee chairman of Ski & Snowboarding, has been busy with the entrusted assignments. He believes that Gulmarg has the potential to become a destination for international sports considering the natural facilities. “This place can become the Launchpad of the country to nurture the potential of the players provided infrastructure augmentation,” opines Sheva, whose sports career spans over thirty years. “KIWG ignited the spirit of promising and talented youth thus ensuring this launchpad will bring us medals in the future as there are best trainers and coaches available for athletes.”
Comparing the facilities that were available to him when he got interested in winter sports and the present status of the event, Shiva sees phenomenal improvement. Going with his entire knowledge of snow games and physical requirements, Sheva has already escalated with the authorities, showing profound interest in holding International events at Gulmarg. “One event isn’t enough for promoting sports activities here,” he says, “Instead, the organizers need to conduct junior-level championships after KIWG.”
The master planning for the transformation of this destination has to be chalked out, the Olympian feels. Sheva is not alone in dreaming about International Games or Olympic games to be held at the Winter Wonderland of Gulmarg.
Arif Khan, a local icon who represented India in the previous Winter Olympics and shall be representing the country again in the 2026 Winter Olympics, has similar views. With experience amassed from about 140 competitions from the national to international level, Arif started his career as a sportsperson in 1996 while he played his first international in 2005 under the mentorship of his father. Interested in Giant Slalom, the speedster gets training from different European countries to work on the technicalities and enhance speed to clinch gold in the next Winter Olympics. Khan nourishes two dreams simultaneously: an Olympic medal for the country and grooming local talent to produce the best athletes for the country. “I spent seven to eight months training, in preparation for the mega event,” Arif vents his schedule. “After the culmination of the big stage, I shall work to groom local talent.” He has just come back from Italy to render his services in KIWG and officiate events.
“We need to upgrade the existing natural facility and invite technical officers of the Federation of International Skiing (FIS) to pursue certification so that mega events can be held at Gulmarg.”
On the field of action, Arif has been tutoring athletes coming from different states. “To reach the best position, a player needs to prepare the mind for various challenges including high altitudes, cold weather, and maintaining body composure besides physical development. The combination of two shall give the best results,” he told the participants at Kangdoori.
He advocated for the intervention of the latest technology for the overall development of infrastructure on the slopes of the Himalayas. Another 1992 Winter Olympian, Nanak Chand Thakur from Himachal Pradesh, presently acting as a coach for ITBP, was elated as his players are clinching medals every day in the KIWG. “We witness the maximum participation of players from J&K, Uttarakhand, and Himachal Pradesh in KIWG,” says Nanak Chand Thakur, “but we need to encourage players from other states too”.
He has participated in sports in 20 countries including Iran, Japan, Korea, China, and won medals in Asian games. He too pitches for FIS certification and other interventions so that the right track and legacy in sports are developed.
Chuni Lal Thakur also from Himachal Pradesh has participated in the 1992 Olympics in France and is mentoring the Himachal Team of Slalom. He says that Khelo India Winter Games redefined the spectrum of the sports arena since the activities and competitions escalated to a limit that set everyone talking about the diverse snow games.
Thakur says that “Indian public is now watching live these activities and competitions and inspiring youngsters to come in these games”.
Like other champions, he too agrees intervention at a large scale to hold international sporting events here. Expressing his optimism, Thakur says we started our career with wooden Ski and today there is huge advancement. “If we did best to represent our country with limited resources, our youngster can bring medals in the future and make our country proud”.
The other two Olympians also expressed similar views for Khelo India Winter Games.

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