Week 222 (13 - 19 January 2018)
Aanchal Thakur’s name went viral this week after she won the first skiing medal in India’s history. Thakur’s third place finish at the Ejder 3200 Cup slalom in Turkey wasn’t enough to secure the 21-year-old a place at the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Winter Games, but represents a leap forward for winter sports in India.
The result was national news, with the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeting his congratulations to Thakur, and said that the whole country was “ecstatic” after hearing the news of her success.
Although India’s national sport is undoubtedly cricket, for Thakur and her family it is skiing that has always come first. Thakur’s father is Secretary General of the Winter Games Federation of India (WGFI) and her brother, Himanshu, is the country’s top ranked skier. He has already represented India at an Olympic Winter Games - Sochi 2014 - and is currently competing for PyeongChang 2018 qualification. The two have a close relationship and Thakur says that the support of her brother has been crucial to her development.
“There is no rivalry, I must say, because he is always helping me with technique, always supporting me, motivating me," said Thakur in an interview with The Times of India. “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."
India has only had one female representative at the Winter Games in its history: Neha Ahuja competed in the women’s slalom at Turin 2006. Currently, the WGFI is not even recognised by the nation’s sports ministry, and Thakur has had to rely on funding support from the International Ski Federation (FIS) to train in Austria and Switzerland. However, attention will now turn to Thakur, India’s reigning national ski champion, to blaze a trail for snow sports. Prime Minister Modi is a winter sports fan and Thakur’s medal could be the trigger for a new wave of popularity.
“This medal will be a turning point for ski and winter sports in India. I can see a bright future (for) skiing in India," Thakur said. "I think the government will support us and there can be nothing bigger than getting praised by Prime Minister Modi. So I think that everybody is aware of skiing now.
“Cricket is not the only sport in India and I want to say that if people like skiing, I want to invite them to the mountainous regions of Manali, Gulmarg or Auli."
For her passion, commitment and success, Aanchal Thakur is JTA Communicator of the Week.
Photo: Winter Games Federation of India