People think temperature in India is like Mumbai’s, they forget we have the Himalayas too: Skier Arif Khan on putting India on the Winter Sports map

Anil DiasUpdated: Sunday, March 20, 2022, 07:03 PM IST
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India's alpine skier Arif Khan | ANI

People forget we have Himalayas: Skier Arif Khan on putting India on the winter sports map

When skier Arif Khan said his goal at the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing was to “finish in the top-30”, many felt he was setting the bar too low. But at 31, becoming the first Indian athlete to win direct quota spots for two different events at a Winter Olympics, Khan clearly knew what he was talking about.

Khan, who hails from Jammu & Kashmir, may have failed to finish in slalom (an alpine skiing and snowboarding discipline) and achieved India’s best finish in giant slalom—45th, but Khan’s goal was not about winning. It was to make Indians aware of Winter sports.

Speaking on the sidelines of the Sportstar Aces Awards in Mumbai on Saturday, Khan said his achievement was getting people to talk about the sport.

“This is the first-time people in India were so aware about the Winter Olympics. It’s quite a boost for the athletes,” he said.

Khan, who became only the 16th Indian to race at the Winter Games since the country’s first participation in 1964, said it puzzles him why winter sports hasn’t progressed in the country.

“It’s my dream to project India as a winter sports destination to the world. We have mountains, we have snow. And once it’s utilised properly, you will see the results,” he said.

To win a medal at the Winter Olympics, Khan said, is a long shot, but insists we must start now to see the results in the next decade.

“In India we have three different places. Jammu & Kashmir, Himachal and Uttarakhand where people can come and try out these sports. We’re slowly getting better infrastructure. It’s not difficult. We need basic things like 5-6 tracks of international standards and the lifts to get there. Then we need a proper training centre with equipment. If we want to win a medal at the Olympics, we must prepare now for the next 10 years,” said Khan, who underwent most of his training in Europe and got funding from different benefactors.

Part of the reason for wanting to compete at the Winter Olympics, was also to debunk myths about winter sports in India. For starters, Khan claimed people don’t know there are places in India where it snows.

“People in Europe think it doesn’t snow in India. They think the temperature is like it is in Mumbai. They forget that the Himalayas are part of India and there is snow at other mountain ranges too,” he concluded.

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