India will complete 75 years of Independence this year. Here is a series acknowledging 75 great sporting achievements by Indian athletes. Sportstar will present one iconic sporting achievement each day, leading up to August 15, 2022.

1998 Nagano Games: Keshavan becomes youngest person overall, first Indian to qualify for Olympics in luge

Luge, thought Shiva Keshavan, was a nice sounding word. French probably.

It didn’t mean anything more to the 15-year-old resident of Vashisht, near Manali, when he was told that Gunter Lemerrer, an Austrian, was coming to Panchakula to conduct an introductory camp for luge on behalf of the International Luge Federation. (For the uninitiated, luge is a sport in which you race down a snow slope, lying supine on a sled. Yes, luge is the French word for sled).

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Shiva, who had already shown a lot of promise in skiing, attended the camp and impressed the Austrian coach. So much so that he was invited to train in Ingls, Austria. Remarkably, he qualified for the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan, where he was the youngest ever qualifier in luge. He competed in the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics in 2002 as well. In Turin, at the 20th edition of the Winter Olympics, he had company, unlike the previous two Olympics, when he was a one-man team from India. He also went on to take part in the 2010, 2014, and 2018 editions of the Games.

The 24-year-old, then, said it was nice to be part of a team finally. “It will make us stronger and we would be able to help each other.”

Shiva believed India has the potential to do well in winter sports. “We have 3000 km of the mighty Himalayas which is a dream for winter sports enthusiasts all around the world; we have yet to make use of this huge resource.”

[ Parts of this edited article by P. K. Ajith Kumar was first published in the Sportstar issue dated February 11, 2006 ]