India’s first international skiing medalist aims for Winter Olympic

Indian skier Aanchal Thakur, who won a bronze at the Ejder 3200 Cup slalom in Turkey poses with her medal in New Delhi. (AFP)
Updated 19 January 2018

India’s first international skiing medalist aims for Winter Olympic

NEW DELHI: -She has already defied the odds in a country fixated on cricket rather than the slopes to win India’s first international skiing medal — but Aanchal Thakur insists she is just getting started.
The 21-year-old dreams of following her older brother Himanshu to compete in the Winter Olympics, a feat so improbable only one Indian woman has ever done it.
She credits Himanshu with inspiring her to dedicate herself to what remains a highly niche sport, despite her family’s best efforts, in a country where cricketers are idolized and skiing is sidelined.
Aanchal made Indian sporting history when she won a bronze medal last week at the Ejder 3200 Cup slalom in Turkey, but did not amass enough points to qualify for next month’s Pyeongchang Games in South Korea.
But she is determined to make the cut for the 2022 edition in China.
Himanshu, 24, India’s top male skier, made his Olympic debut at the 2014 Sochi Games and races on Saturday in Iran as he bids to compete in Pyeongchang.
“Now he is so close to the Olympic Games. He was pushing me also. I will make sure that I will be there with him in 2022,” said Aanchal, who was India’s national ski champion in 2014 and 2017.
“There is no rivalry, I must say, because he is always helping me (with) technique, always supporting me, motivating me.”
Her success in Turkey promises to dramatically raise the profile of skiing in India.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi was quick to congratulate her after she clinched the historic medal, tweeting that the whole country was “ecstatic.”
Aanchal’s name went viral on social media, with many hailing her achievement as a leap forward for Indian sportswomen.
Skiing badly needs greater recognition to take off in India. Neha Ahuja, who competed in Turin in 2006, remains the only woman ever to have represented the vast country at a Winter Olympics.
“This medal will be a turning point for ski and winter sports in India. I can see a bright future (for) skiing in India,” Aanchal told AFP.
“Now I think the government will support us. There can be nothing bigger than getting praised by PM Modi ji. So I think that everybody is aware of skiing now.”

Ski-crazy family

Aanchal comes from a ski-crazy family in the northern Indian hill town of Manali and her father Roshan Thakur is secretary of the Winter Games Federation of India (WGFI).
But in a brutal reminder of the second-class status of skiing in India, WGFI is not even recognized by India’s sports ministry and must fend for itself in a sport that requires expensive equipment.
The sport also is also cramped by a relatively short season in India.
Aanchal started skiing at six and with her father’s encouragement made great strides nationally. But even to make it to international competitions was a huge achievement.
Funding trips to Europe for training has been difficult with the family forced to seek help from the International Ski Federation.
“Apart from my dad, we got some sponsors from the sports’ international body so we could train in Switzerland and in Austria for races,” Aanchal said.
Aanchal sometimes trains in the Solang Valley in the Himalayas but long struggled to gain enough daily runs to be competitive in international skiing. She only goes to India’s main ski centers of Auli and Gulmarg for national championships.
But she insists if she can climb to the summit, then others can follow.
“Cricket is not the only sport in India and I want to say that if you like skiing, please come over (to) Manali or Gulmarg or Auli,” said Aanchal.

Celtics beat Cavs in Game 5, lead NBA Eastern Conference finals 3-2

Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum attempts a layup in front of Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James during the third quarter of game five of the Eastern conference finals of the 2018 NBA Playoffs at TD Garden. (Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports)
Updated 24 May 2018

Celtics beat Cavs in Game 5, lead NBA Eastern Conference finals 3-2

  • Rookie Jayson Tatum scored 24 points — his ninth 20-point game of the postseason — and the Celtics held LeBron James to two fourth-quarter points.
  • Game 6 is in Cleveland on Friday night, with the decisive seventh game back in Boston on Sunday if necessary.

BOSTON: LeBron James is tired. The young Boston Celtics seem to be getting stronger.
Rookie Jayson Tatum scored 24 points — his ninth 20-point game of the postseason — and Boston beat Cleveland 96-83 on Wednesday night to take a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven Eastern Conference finals.
The Celtics held James to two fourth-quarter points, earning their 10th straight victory in Boston to remain perfect at home this postseason and move within one win of their first trip to the NBA Finals since 2010.
“I just enjoy playing in the big moments, in the big games. That’s when I have the most fun,” said Tatum, who needs one more 20-point game to tie Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s rookie record of 10 in a postseason.
“I can’t say it enough: We’re one win away from being in the finals,” Tatum said. “The playoffs bring the best out of people.”
Game 6 is in Cleveland on Friday night, with the decisive seventh game back in Boston on Sunday if necessary. The home team has won every game so far in the series, and none has been closer than nine points.
“We’re looking forward to having an opportunity to force a Game 7,” said James, who had 26 points and 10 rebounds but also had six turnovers. “It’s up to us to see if we can come back here for one more.”
Al Horford had 15 points and 12 rebounds, and 21-year-old Jaylen Brown had 17 points for Boston. Tatum added seven rebounds, four assists and four steals one day after finishing a single vote shy of a unanimous selection to the NBA’s All-Rookie team.
“The sky’s the limit” for Tatum , Brown said. “He’s going to continue to get better. He’s my workout partner. I expect it in myself and I expect it in him.”
Kevin Love scored 14 points for the Cavaliers, who are trying to reach the finals for the fourth consecutive season. James has played to the end in seven straight seasons.
To extend that streak, he’ll need to win two in a row.
One of them will be in Boston.
“Our focus — LeBron’s focus — is to win,” Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue said. “That’s the only thing that matters.”
The Celtics opened a double-digit lead in the first quarter and nursed it the rest of the way, holding on through a four-minute scoring drought that saw Cleveland score nine straight points to cut the deficit to 83-71. But Terry Rozier hit Horford with an alley-oop to snap the skid, and that was as close as the Cavs would get.
Reserves Marcus Morris and Marcus Smart each scored 13.

James had one basket on four shots in the fourth quarter, and afterward conceded that he was worn down. He finished 1 for 6 from 3-point range in the game; the Cavaliers made just 9 of 34 attempts from beyond the arc and shot just 42 percent overall.
“I had my moments, but I think everybody at this point is tired, worn down whatever the case may be,” he said. “I was still trying to make plays, put our team in position to win.”

Boston went on a 15-3 run in the first quarter to turn a three-point deficit into a nine-point lead. The Celtics scored nine in a row at the end of the first quarter and into the second to take a 36-19 lead, their biggest of the game.
That’s when the Cavaliers fought back .
After a hard defensive play by Morris sent Larry Nance Jr. into the first row of seats, Morris appeared to wander over and say something. Nance to jump up and body checked him; Morris responded with a one-handed shove to the face.
Aron Baynes and Brown came in to break it up, and Terry Rozier put a body on Nance. After a review, the referees called technicals on Rozier, Nance and Morris. Kyle Korver made the foul shot to make it 36-20 and Cleveland went on a 9-0 run to cut the deficit to eight points, 36-28.
But Morris made a long 3-pointer to stop the scoring drought, and soon hit another to cap an 8-2 run that made it a double-digit lead.
Smart said the Celtics wanted to more aggressive at home.
“At their place, they were the aggressor,” he said. “That showed and they came up with the victory. We just wanted to be that team tonight.”

Teams that win Game 5 to take a 3-2 lead in a best-of-seven series win 83 percent of the time. ... James had 16 points, four rebounds and three assists at the half. Tatum had 13 points, and Horford had 10 points and seven boards at the break. ... Baynes made his first start of the series, subbing for Morris. ... It took until midway through the third quarter for a Cavs starter other than James or Love to make a basket. J.R. Smith sank a floater to make it 63-50, and George Hill followed with a jumper of his own. ... The Celtics were 10-0 in the playoffs at home in 1986. ... Horford had his 7th double-double of the postseason, matching a career high he set in 2015.