NEW DELHI, India (Vianews) – Twenty-one years old, Aanchal Thakur who hails from a small hill town Manali, in the Himalayan State of India, has become the first Indian to win a medal in an International Skiing competition held in Turkey. She clinched the third position and won a bronze medal at Alpine Ejder 3200 Cup. The Skiing event was organized by International Skiing governing body FIS at the Palandoken Ski Centre in Erzurum.

Aanchal Thakur. India's first International Medal in Ski competition. Photo by the official Aanchal Thakur's Instagram account.
Aanchal Thakur. India’s first International Medal in Ski competition. Photo by the official Aanchal Thakur’s Instagram account.

Considering the fact that Winters sports are not well recognized in India because most part of the country doesn’t receive snowfall, Aanchal’s win has come out as a great deal of achievement.

When she was announced as one of the competitors, most of her counterparts and officials at Turkey were surprised and many asking her if it really snows in India. The young woman responded by saying “ The Himalayas are here, So why not?

Aanchal Thakur. Skiing competition held in Turkey. Photo by the official Aanchal Thakur's Instagram account.
Aanchal Thakur. Skiing competition held in Turkey. Photo by the official Aanchal Thakur’s Instagram account.

After winning the bronze medal, she expressed her sheer happiness through a tweet stating “ “Finally something unexpected happened. My first ever international medal. Federation International Ski Race (FIS). At the end, turkey served me well,” with a picture of her on the podium. Thakur’s achievement has been highly acknowledged by everyone from Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Cricket Mogul Sachin Tendulkar and everyone from politics, entertainment, and sports world.

Aanchal Thakur hails from a very small village in the Himalayan state of Himachal Pradesh and is a daughter of the secretary general of Winter Games Federation of India. Since skiing is not really a popular sport in India, it was very difficult to find sponsors to compete in the International events. Aanchal’s journey to the medal was financed by either FIS or her father. Her father shared that there has been no monetary support from the Central Government of India.

Aanchal Thakur. Skiing competition held in Turkey. Photo by the official Aanchal Thakur's Instagram account.
Aanchal Thakur. Skiing competition held in Turkey. Photo by the official Aanchal Thakur’s Instagram account.

The proud father always loved skiing and therefore, it was very natural that both his children picked up the sport at a very young age. While Aanchal came to limelight with her recent achievement, her brother Himanshu who is also an Alpine skier had competed alongside Shiva Keshavan, the Indian luger in Sochi Winter Olympics in 2014.

Aanchal said, “I have been going to Europe for skiing since my seventh grade. My father always wanted me to learn and excel in ski and has been spending from his pocket all these years. Without any help from the government, you can understand how much he has spent on both of his children.”

Another challenge for young Aanchal was that it doesn’t snow during most part of the year so the training is only limited to two months of winters. Therefore, they have to go out and train. The magnificent Himalayas is home to skiers from all across the world but despite that, there are only three ski resorts in Uttrakhand, Himachal & Kashmir with no proper facility to ensure proper safety for local skiers. They are only world class during the competitions and not looked after properly otherwise.

Aanchal Thakur. Skiing competition held in Turkey. Photo by the official Aanchal Thakur's Instagram account.
Aanchal Thakur. Skiing competition held in Turkey. Photo by the official Aanchal Thakur’s Instagram account.

While European skiers get trained for at least 10 months in a year, Indian athletes can only train for two months at max again considering the heavy cost involved in the overseas training programs. The equipment including boots, ski, and alpine clothing is very expensive and costs somewhere around $8000- $10,000, says Aanchal.

Against all the odds, Aanchal Thakur has scripted history to become first Indian to win at an International level and bring home its first medal. With this historic medal for the country, Aanchal’s next target would be to qualify for the Winter Olympics that is to help in South Korea in February.

While Aanchal’s brother is close to this year’s qualification mark to make it for Winter Games, the path seems difficult for Aanchal.

She said, “In order to qualify, we need 140 points in total five races and I am not yet near to that mark even in one race. The last run was a very challenging course. Even the gold medalist could not qualify after scoring more than 140 points”.

Aanchal Thakur, the first Indian to win a medal in an International Skiing competition held in Turkey. Photo by the official Aanchal Thakur's Instagram account.
Aanchal Thakur, the first Indian to win a medal in an International Skiing competition held in Turkey. Photo by the official Aanchal Thakur’s Instagram account.

The last date for the Olympics Qualification cut off is on January 21 and the young woman is racing against the receding time. As per Aanchal’s schedule for next few days, she is expected to travel to Iceland where her brother is already attending an event and then there is a race scheduled in Pakistan and Iran. Aanchal still has to see if she would be able to get the visa for her travels or not. So, she might not be able to participate in the upcoming Winter Olympics but she has already set her sight for 2022.

“We need to start preparing for that now and hopefully we will get the much-needed government support,” says Aanchal.

Aanchal and her father hope that after her International achievement, Indian government recognizes the scope of opportunity for the young talents like her. Since the Prime Minister and Sports Minister of India have taken notice of the recent achievement they are hoping that things will improve in coming times.

Via News TV