By Olympic standards, luger Shiva Keshavan is a veteran – he’s competed in five Winter Games. But, funnily enough, it was his jaw-dropping crash-and-save at Sochi that put him in the spotlight.
At 70 MPH, the Indian-born competitor managed to roll back onto his sled after falling off, finishing the practice run unscathed.
The impressive performance went viral, but the spirit around his miraculous save didn’t help him when it came to the real competition.
Keshavan finished 37th out of 39 riders.
Though he was never expected to contend for a medal, he also never expected to contend for the bottom.
“Training was not going so good, so I wasn’t as confident in the race,” Keshavan said.
After his country was banned from the Olympics for electing corrupted officials to its Olympic leadership team, Keshavan qualified for the Olympics as an independent and managed the entire effort himself.
Keshavan had the support of his wife, who took control of media relations, travel, finance, nutrition, and more.
“It’s difficult when there’s corruption in your country,” Keshavan said without a hint of sarcasm.
He was forced to wear a uniform with the Olympic colors and not those of his native India – something that disappointed him.
“You have a tough time explaining the difficulties we face,” he said.
Then, two days after his upsetting finish, and as he and his wife wondered whether it was worth staying in Russia, an unprecedented announcement was made.
India named new Olympic officials – without prison and corruption histories – and the ban on the country was lifted immediately. The three Indian athletes could compete under their national flag.
Unfortunately, the Sochi re-instatement announcement was a few days – or months – too late. Keshavan was already done.
“People are realizing all that you need,” Keshavan said, who despite the sting of not having the financial and symbolic support of a nation of 1.2 billion people, wants to look ahead. “It’s a fresh start, and I want to keep it positive. We have a huge talent pool in India, and there is a lot of potential.
Keshavan always loved winter sports – he was inspired by the movie Cool Runnings, which chronicled Jamaica’s unlikely bobsled team at the 1988 Calgary Games – and thought he’d make a run at the Olympics.
“The dream just built up from there,” he said.
Five Olympics later, Keshavan shows no sign of slowing down.
As for 2018 in South Korea, “Absolutely,” he said. “That was the plan all along.”
Follow Brian A. Shactman on Twitter @bshactman