The 21-year-old Manali girl, Aanchal Thakur registered her name in the history books, as she became the first Indian to win the coveted Alpine Ejder 3200 Cup. The championship was held at the Palandoken Ski Centre in Erzurum, Turkey. It was organised by the Federation Internationale de Ski (FIS), which is the governing body of international skiing.
Aanchal Thakur won the Bronze medal in the slalom race category.
Hailing from Burua in Manali, Aanchal learnt the sport as a beginner from her father. Later her skills were polished by former Olympian Heera Lal.
Her achievement is lauded by all the major dignitaries of India, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Sports Minister Rajyavardhan Rathore.
PM Modi tweeted: “Well done @alleaanchal for winning an international medal in skiing! The entire nation is ecstatic on your historic accomplishment at the FIS International Skiing Competition in Turkey. Wishing you the very best for your future endeavours.”
The Sports Minister was also quick to give best wishes via Twitter.
Rajyavardhan Rathore Tweeted: “Congrats Aanchal Thakur for the Slalom Skiing Bronze in the FIS International Skiing Competition in Turkey. India opens account by a first ever medal in skiing. Well done!”
An ecstatic Aanchal Thakur speaking to Indian media persons from Turkey said, “Months of training have finally borne fruit. I started well and managed to take a good lead, which helped later in getting the third-place finish.”
The young girls’ feat should be cherished by one and all. She has become the champion from a nation, where there is no culture to take up skiing as a sport. The infrastructure for winter sports in India is hardly present in major sports centers, leave alone Tier I and II cities.
Another reason budding athletes don’t take up winter sports like skiing or luge is because there is no funding. The second reason is negligible support from the Union sports ministry.
Roshan Thakur father of Aanchal who is her first coach, is also the secretary general of the Winter Games Federation of India (WGFI). An elated father, Thakur said, “This is a breakthrough for such type of sports in India. The entire skiing fraternity is proud of her achievement.”
Aanchal’s father is not in favour of the bureaucracy that has engulfed the Sports Ministry and in turn the sports persons. Her journey in international skiing until now has either been financed by her father or FIS. The international governing body at times would fund her trips.
Her father laments the fact that there has been no monetary support from such unique sports from Centre.
“The bureaucrats in the sports ministry do not acknowledge skiing as a sport,” Thakur rues.
If you don’t know, a professional skier requires skis, boots and bindings, poles, helmets, suits, goggles and gloves to compete. Just the equipment of the sport costs around Rs 5 lakh to Rs 10 lakh.
“I hope Aanchal’s medal helps our cause (in getting financial support from the Centre). I want to see my daughter and son represent the country in the 2018 Winter Olympics,” Roshan Thakur added.
“The Centre only allocates funds for travel and logistics, from one Olympic to another. And rest of the time, you have to fend for yourself.”
We are sure the record winning feat, from Aanchal Thakur inspires many budding athletes to take up the sport of skiing. The girl from Manali has made the nation proud. We hope to see her representing India at the Winter Olympics 2018.