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January 2018/ Won India’s first-ever international medal in skiing
Manali resident Aanchal Thakur made history by winning India’s first-ever international medal in skiing. The 21-year-old clinched bronze in the coveted Alpine Ejder 3200 Cup organised by the Fédération Internationale de Ski (FIS) — skiing’s international governing body — at the Palandoken Ski Centre in Erzurum in Turkey. She won the medal in the slalom race category.
“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,” Aanchal told TOI from Turkey. Her feat is special given that there is no culture or even infrastructure for winter sports in India. Also, those participating in winter sports in India get negligible support from the Union sports ministry.
Aanchal’s journey in international skiing has either been financed by her father or FIS that, at times, funds her trips. Her father rues the fact that there has been no monetary support from the Centre. “The bureaucrats in the sports ministry do not acknowledge skiing as a sport,” Thakur said.
A professional skier requires skis, boots and bindings, poles, helmets, suits, goggles and gloves to compete . Just the equipment costs around Rs 5lakh 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,” Thakur added. “The Centre only funds travel and logistics from one Olympic to another. Rest of the time, you have to fend for yourself.”
Aanchal hails from Burua, a small village in Manali. She learnt the ropes from her father. Later, Heera Lal, a former Olympian, honed her skills.