Facts about Shiva Keshavan: India’s flag-bearer at Winter Olympics 2018

Meet Shiva Keshavan: India representative for Luge at Winter Olympics 2018
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Shiva Keshavan is a 36-year-old Indian representative of the sport – Luge – at the Winter Olympic Games, who has represented India six times so far, making himself the first Indian to compete in luge, and the first Indian with most (six) appearances at the Winter Olympics.
Shiva Keshavan, who carried the Indian flag during the Opening Ceremony of the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, finished 34th in his sixth Winter Olympics on Sunday (11 February), which were also his last, as Keshavan brought the curtains down on his international career which was over two-decade long, after producing the best timing of his campaign as he covered the 1,344 metre track at the Olympic Sliding Center in 48.900 seconds in his third round heat. Since the Himachal-born finished outside the top 20, he did not get to compete in the final run, which decided the medals.

Facts about Shiva Keshavan

Son of an Indian father from Kerala and an Italian mother, Shiva Keshavan was born and brought up in the mountains of Himachal Pradesh, near the village Vashisht in Manali.

Shiva Keshavan’s hometown was a skiing destination of sorts, and so, he picked up a liking for sledding and skiing at a rather young age.

Later, Keshavan was discovered by an Austrian World Champion, Gunther Lemmerer, after which Shiva Keshavan went on to participate in the Nagano Winter Olympics in Japan, in 1998, at the age of 16.

He was the youngest in the lot who had participated for Luge at that particular Winter Olympic Games, but couldn’t go further due to lack of funds. Since then he has taken part in each of the Winter Olympics.

Shiva Keshavan is the reigning Asian champion in Luge, and also holds the Asian speed record – 134.3 km/h. His prowess is such in the sport, which is hardly even known by the Indian masses, that Keshavan has four Asian Luge Championships – 2011, 2012, 2016 and 2017 – to his name.

What is a luge?

As is the case with sports like Football, Basketball, etc., Luge is also a name derived from the primary equipment that the athletes use for playing the sport. A Luge is a sled that carries one or two persons, depending on the nature of the event – singles or doubles.

In the Winter Olympics, Luge involves athletes riding down an artificial ice track, on the luge, which works like a sleigh. The participants lie face-up on the sleigh and control their slide using mainly their calves, to navigate and speed-up the luge with the help of the steel bars present on the luge.

Lugers can go to extreme speeds during the competition runs, for example,  Austria’s Manuel Pfister reached a top speed of 154 kph during training, ahead of the 2010 Winter Olympics.

Luge has been a part of the Winter Olympics since 1964, with 15-time gold medal winner Germany being the dominant side in the sport. Apart from the men’s singles in which Keshavan had participated for the sixth and last time, the other sections include Women’s Singles, doubles and team relay.

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