India skiers to compete in Sochi Winter Olympics as independents

New Delhi, Jan.4 : Indian skiers Hira Lal, Himanshu Thakur and Nadeem Iqbal, are preparing to participate in the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, as independent competitors because of the suspension imposed on the Indian Olympic Association by the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

The Indian Olympic Association (IOA) is deemed by the IOC guidelines to be in violation of its rules and regulations and has been suspended from competition. That means the athletes must compete under the Olympic flag as independent entrants.

The competitors have had to rely on little support in the past - their equipment is meagre and much repaired. India have never won a medal at a Winter Olympics.

Hira Lal, a native of Manali in Himachal Pradesh, expressed his lament over the poor infrastructure for skiing in India.

Lal said that the suspension of the national Olympic association meant the athletes have been unable to represent India at recent competitions.

"Ever since the Indian Olympic Association was suspended by the International Olympic Committee, we have not got a chance to stand with our National Flag at the Asian and World Championships. Our national anthem is not sung. Whenever we go for the opening ceremonies, we do not get the joy of standing beneath our flag. It is sad that our Indian national flag is not hoisted during competitions," he said.

Lal said that he has had to pay from his own pocket for training and specialist help. To train in snow, Lal has had to travel to Japan and Europe, and he said there has been hardly any monetary help from the state or central government.

He said, for the many medals that he has won, the Government of Himachal Pradesh has compensated him with just Rs.32,000, whereas the people who have participated later, have got benefits worth Rs.80,000.

Another skier, Rajat Thakur, who has not qualified for the Olympics, said the Indian Olympic Association seemed to be indifferent to India's winter sports competitors.

"Actually, there is no proper set-up within the committee (Indian Olympic Association)," he said.

He added: "There are clashes among them. India has a dearth of sponsors and members of the committee do not look at the talent of an athlete. They are involved amongst themselves. All of them want power and they all want to be at the top. They do not consider talent of an athlete; neither do they think that an athlete can do a lot better if provided with better training."

The Winter Olympics will be held in Sochi in Russia from February 7 to February 23. The skiers will be competing in the giant slalom while Nadeem will compete in the cross-country category. Shiva Keshavan is due to compete as an independent in the luge.

--ANI (Posted on 04-01-2014)

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