Ice-skating is not a sport that we associate with India. But despite the obscurity of the sport in the country, the 13th National Ice-skating Championship was held in Gurgaon on 5-6 January this year as competitors from various states of India and even some Indians from abroad locked horns against each other to be crowned the national champion. Initially scheduled to be held in Shimla, the lack of decent snowfall meant the thin layer of natural ice cover would not be suitable to host the event. Hence the game was shifted to iSkate at Gurgaon at the last moment which gave the host less than two days to welcome the skaters. The championships featured events as varied as Speed Skating India (Long Track), Short Track Speed Skating India & Figure Skating India and proved to be an exciting watch for several spectators who turned up for the event.
“In India, we do not have the ‘international standard’ infrastructure to conduct the ice skating events,” said Mr Avadhut S. Tawade, the head coach and chief referee for the Short Track Speed Skating Team India. He added, “Therefore, most of the times in India ISAI have to organise camps/championships in places where facilities are available at the last minute. In India, we have three major natural ice skating rinks at Leh/Ladakh, Shimla (Himachal Pradesh) & Gulmarg (Jammu & Kashmir).”
Most major Ice-skating Championships are scheduled in the months of August to September in various countries, the lack of proper infrastructure and necessary funds means that the championship is held in January in our country.
On January 5, 2017, Short Track Speed Skating Championship was successfully conducted. 150 participants from twelve states (Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Tamilnadu, Himachal Pradesh, Kerala, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, Jharkhand & Haryana) were part of it. Maharashtra and Karnataka dominated the podiums. On January 6, 2017, the Figure Skating Championship was successfully organised. There were 50 athletes in this event. Andhra Pradesh exclusively dominated the podium.
Mr Tawade seemed delighted at the success of the event despite all the adversities faced in the build up to it, claiming, “In India, we do not have standard ice skating rink, we do not have proper infrastructure to practice ice skating. But, overall this championship shows that Ice Skating in India is ‘alive’, and I am happy for that. Two of my male athletes successfully qualified for the Jr World Short Track Speed Skating Championship, Innsbruck Austria which will be conducted from 27-30 Jan 2017”.
Indeed, it is a matter of pride for our country that two young boys, Ashwin D Silva and CA Kavirajprithvi, with little to no support from the government, will be going to Austria to compete with some of the best in the world and shows the potential of the sport in our country.
Mr Tawade looked particularly upbeat about the future of Ice-Skating in our country. “I would say that the sport would grow a lot in the future. I am very hopeful for overall future scope & developments of Ice Skating in India”, he said in conclusion.
With the progress made in the last few years, it is safe to say that the future of the sport in our country looks bright and it might just be a matter of time before we discover an Olympian for ice-skating from India.