Legal eagles lift India’s luge man

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Legal eagles lift India’s luge man

NEW DELHI - Shiva Keshavan wants cricket-crazy India to notice him at the Winter Olympics - and he has some of the country’s finest lawyers to argue his case.

The Indian media’s obsession with bat and ball has meant that Keshavan, 28, has gone virtually unnoticed despite having taken part in three Olympics in the luge. He almost missed his fourth appearance at the Winter Games next week when his sled broke during pre-Olympic training just days before his departure for Vancouver.

Luckily, lawyer Gopal Sankaranarayan took note of Keshavan’s predicament and approached top colleagues at the Supreme Court to help the determined young man reach his goal. Five legal luminaries pooled 450,000 rupees ($10,000) to buying new equipment for Keshavan.

“It’s a wonderful gesture from the legal community toward the development of Indian sport,” Sankaranarayan said. “Keshavan’s story as an Indian Winter Olympian is unique and he is a great example of what can be achieved with hard work and a will to succeed.”

Keshavan was moved by the lawyers’ generosity. “I am immensely grateful for the support I have received from these gentlemen,” he said. “I hope to make them and the country proud at the Games.”

Keshavan admitted he has struggled to pursue his passion in a country where cricket rules.

“Cricket is big in India, but that doesn’t mean everyone must only play cricket,” he told Agence France-Presse in an earlier interview.

When Keshavan went for his first Olympics in Nagano, Japan, in 1998 as a 16-year-old, he competed with a borrowed sled, oversized jacket and ill-fitting shoes. At the 2006 Games in Turin Keshavan finished 25th, and he’s under no illusions that a medal is his for the taking in Vancouver.

“I may not win a medal, but I take a lot of satisfaction from the fact that I have paved the path for the new generation of athletes who want to make a name in winter sports. I hope the country notices.”

Keshavan, who hails from the southern state of Kerala, took up winter sports while studying international relations at the University of Florence in Italy. He now lives and trains in the north Indian state of Himachal Pradesh, the home of winter sports in the country.

“I was offered Italian citizenship, but I refused because I am an Indian and want to spend my life here,” he said. “So what if they don’t know what a luge is?”

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