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
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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.


Saudi Arabia leave it late to salvage draw with Iraq in Riyadh

Updated 15 October 2018
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Saudi Arabia leave it late to salvage draw with Iraq in Riyadh

  • Abdulaziz Al-Bishi scored in the 94th minute
  • Pizzi rang the changes in the second half, making six subsitutions in total

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia left it late to salvage a draw in their match against Iraq on Monday night, with Abdulaziz Al-Bishi scoring in the 94th minute.
The fixture at the King Saud University Stadium pitted Juan Antonio Pizzi’s Green Falcons against an Asian Cup rival in Iraq, galvanized by the arrival of Slovenian coach Srencko Katanec.
The first half was a cagey affair, with both sides canceling each other out, and Musthafa Nadhim receiving a yellow card just before halftime.
Pizzi rang the changes in the second half, making six subsitutions in total, three coming after Iraq’s opener. Muhannad Ali put the visitors in front with twenty minutes remaining.
Saudi Arabia kept pressing, and were rewarded in the dying minutes when Al-Bishi scored with almost the last kick of the game.