India's Winter Olympians: Beaten (quite badly) but unbowed
India is generally known for it's heat. Hot food, hot weather, hot women... So when three guys struggle against the odds to qualify by a hair for the coldest of international sporting meets, the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics, you'd think the government would, at the very least, give them a pat on the back, new gloves and a first class flight.
But no. Our guys have had to battle, fight and scrap their way to their achievements all on their own. And, well, it kind of shows.
Yesterday India's Jamyang Namgyal came in 92nd place, also known as dead last, at the Men's Giant Slalom alpine skiing event at the Whistler Olympic Park. He was six seconds behind San Marino's Marino Cardelli, in 91st place, and a veritable eon, in slalom terms, behind Pakistan's 24-year-old Muhammad Abbas, a man who learned on wooden skis and finished in 90th place.
Now we don't want to be unpatriotic, but last place is last place. Out of 92 competitors.
Then last week compatriot Indian Tashi Lundup finished 83rd out of 95 in the Olympic X-Country skiing, eight minutes off the gold.
Perhaps this isn't surprising considering these two are Indian army men first, and Olympic sportsmen second. Tashi Lundup and Jamyang Namgyal are stationed at Gulmarg, Kashmir, a would-be posh ski getaway (CNNGo feature), if it weren't plagued by avalanches. Just last week 17 of their fellow servicemen were buried alive by one (CNN-IBN news video).
Finally 28-year-old Shiva Keshavan, the last of our terrible trio and a luge specialist born in a village in the Indian Himalayas who damaged his spine and broke his only sled during a November training session, had to rely on five Indian lawyers unexpectedly donating Rs 450,000 (about US$10,000) so he could buy a new one. The luge was being held together by duct tape and screws.
The BBC reports Keshavan "received his first funding of $20,000 (£12,800) from the Indian government last year, after more than a decade of competing."
The Indo-Canadian community then had to rally together to raise funds for the three competing Indian athletes with the owner of a sports shop donating proper track suits with an Indian flag embroidered on, for the opening ceremonies.
If ever there was an opportunity for some sarcasm this was it, but Keshavan chose a dignified response. "[The lawyers] just contacted me and said they wanted to help" Keshavan said. "It’s a great feeling to know you’re being appreciated by people all over the country."Sadly India's own version of "Cool Runnings" was not to be. Keshavan came 29th out of the 38 athletes.