Is Lack Of Funding Biggest Hurdle For India’s Ace Speed Skater’s Internationals’ Dream?
January 29th, 2016
Shruti Kotwal is international ‘Speed Skater’ representing INDIA. She is national champion and has made us proud in international events as well.
Here are TLI Exclusive talks with Shruti:
I have been a national level gold medal winner at roller skating for many years. Roller skating had fewer opportunities so I decided to give ice skating a shot in Shimla where there is a small ice skating rink which hosts a national camp and national competitions every year. It was an upcoming sport and the fact that it is an Olympic sport and more globally recognized, attracted me more towards it. That’s how it all started.
My family is the one and only reason that I can pursue my passion of speed skating against all odds. They don’t just support me financially but also they are my biggest motivators for something so rare like an Indian female athlete to travel across the globe for advanced sports training. My father gave me the liberty to choose my own career and always supported my decisions from a very young age. And I owe all my success to my mother for incorporating sportsmanship and taking all the responsibility for my practice and races all over India since I started skating at the age of 7, as she herself was a national level athlete in her school days as well. She made sure I never gave up. I have an older sister and a younger brother who I believe are my biggest fans!
I did not face much of discrimination as an athlete but did not get warn acceptance being young and women when I started coaching; nobody could digest it well. But yes, men athletes are way more popular than the women. Being only athlete in the sports I get lot of attention though so that balances out. As an athlete I don’t have much complains.
On Success And Fame:
I represented INDIA at the South Asian Championships and won 3 GOLD MEDALS with overall FIRST position. Represented INDIA at the INTERNATIONAL camp held at TAIWAN in 2008 and in Asian Championship held at Beijing, China in 2010. I am National Overall Champion for 3 consecutive years with GOLD medals.
Winning the South Asian Championship was one of greatest things, which was the best organized skating competition in India (held at Dehradun) by far. I won gold medal in all distances (500m, 1000m, and 1500m) and won a lot of media attention and got that amazing feeling of standing on the podium representing the tricolor with the national anthem being played because of you!
Making India Sports Friendly Country:
First is reach; TV shows only one or two games so if you don’t see you won’t know about it and sponsorship also won’t be there so the sport goes in negative loop. The gap between national level and international is so huge whatever sports is played, it aimed for national levels. Athletes play nations win few and then retire. National level here is regarded very hugely, but when I won the Nationals and participate in International event I saw we stand nowhere. So to cover that gap first we need stop these thousands associations that exists here in every field of sports. They all will do their own national competition and have set of their own players, there is no real competition, all the players are scattered. If some club says their player came with international level medal that is not actually the real international one, they send players to play in local level in other countries and there they win. It is just show off. If international medals were so easy, everybody would have those.
Sports need more focus and priority here, it is not considered as a career option. No kid dreams to become a sports person, although there are so many passionate people here. There is no scholarship or any motivation or support. In my case also, I am hearing since past three years that I will be facilitated with awards and rewards but nothing has been done so far.
Our attitude needs a change including athletes’. Athletes don’t have hope for internationals. They are always ready with excuses, those are true but what is fun of going for international and not winning anything. Every year team goes without any quality and huge money is wasted.
Parents’ mindsets also need to be changed. People invest so much money on education and go for masters abroad, why can’t we go for training in sports abroad. For sports; parent have different attitude, they feel like this is the biggest gamble of their life.
Actually we think after investing huge in education abroad you will get a job, but in sports even if you train for 2-3 years abroad you are not sure of getting medals. But now job security is not there, in Canada almost 3000 Indians were kicked out of their jobs just because of rescission. It is just our mentality that study is safe.
Your Message to the logical Indian community:
Your community is so huge so I think you can make things popular which need voice. Sports need attitude change and you can make that change happen. In India we judge people on ‘How much one is earning, or what one won’. This is so not right, everybody does not become millionaire, and everybody does not win gold, and that is not the aim of everybody in life too.
When I went to Canada just for training skating, people were shocked especially the Indians, “you left everything just to do skating” they say. On the top I don’t get sponsors. Now is the crucial time I need sponsors if I don’t get now my career is finished in few years. White folks took it easy though. They do sports or study, because sports training itself is rigorous. That’s why; see we are 1.2 billion people and not many Olympic medals. Parents also don’t send kid aboard for training, thinking of security and inconvenience. It’s no big deal living alone in abroad for a girl now.
Indian athlete, sports persons go abroad for international events as a shopping trip, as they know they are coming back with no medals. Every year this is happening, there is no change in our attitude. Athlete has no international ambition “National champion bano aur retire ho jao,
Korean/Chinese ke sath thodi na compete kar sakte he (become national champion and get retire we can’t compete with Koreans/Chinese) “.
We don’t have any diet planner, coach, physiotherapist, masseuse, manager with us for international events; it feels like we wake up and compete. Why do we give so bad impression to the world, I don’t think we are that poor, we have enough money but we don’t want to put into sports. When I was sent for Asian Championship there was not even coach with me, we were two my team member and me, we landed at Kazakisatan, we had to find our own way to the hotel and somehow we reached and next day we had race. Our team member got injured but we did not even have physiotherapist.
There are really good athletes they need sponsors and support, with little bit fanatical, infrastructure, motivation support they can do lot for our country.
We hope Shruti gets sponsors and we make attitude change towards sports and give best to our sports persons to help them make us proud.