As the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi get ready for a formal start, luge pilot and India's biggest hope in the event, Shiva Keshavan has said that he is trying his best to stay away from the politics surrounding the Indian Olympic Association's suspension from the International Olympic Committee, which will result in athletes not being able to compete under the Indian flag during the Games.
Keshavan, who has represented India in as many as four Winter Olympic Games before this one in Sochi, has the distinction of being the first from his country and the youngest-ever to take part in luge in the Winter Olympics. (Shiva Keshavan: India's 'iceman' and lone Winter Olympics hope)
Hours before Friday's opening ceremony, Keshavan told NDTV that although he would not be able to represent the Indian flag, millions of people from the country want to see him perform and this would be his source of motivation.
"The feeling is very different. It means a lot to have reached till here. It is important for me to go even though I am representing the Olympic flag. There are a lot of people who want to see me perform and that is my motivation," Keshavan told NDTV.
He, however, did admit that it was clearly a bad thing for India to find itself in a situation where its athletes could not even represent their own country. (Three Indians in Sochi, but no India)
"I have been told by athletes who have come to me to sympathise that this is an unfortunate situation. It is definitely not good for the image of the country," the luge pilot added. (Disgraceful situation for the country, say ex-Olympians)
Keshavan also appealed to new Indian Olympic Association members to try and improve India's relationship with the IOC.
"We need to work together to improve India's relationship with the International Olympic Committee. The people who have been recently elected should make this a priority," he said.
Keshavan, who is the Asian speed record-holder of 143.3 kmph and Asian track record holder of 49.590 seconds in his event, said that he was only trying to concentrate on the event as an athlete and the politics is not occupying his mind.
Meanwhile, former and current Indian Olympic athletes such as Milkha Singh, Ashwini Nachappa and V Baskaran have slammed how the authorities have been insensitive towards potential flag-bearers leading up to the Games. ('The tri-colour has been shamed')
Story first published on: Friday, 07 February 2014 19:53 IST