Last month, actor Akshay Kumar ran as one of the 14 torch-bearers for the Winter Olympics. Here he tells us why he believes the three Indians at the Olympics have a shot at winning and why he would like to take his son to see the events. Edited excerpts from an email interview:
Did you know that three Indians are participating at the Winter Olympics in Vancouver and this is the fourth Winter Olympics for one of them?
I know, isn’t it fantastic? For more than 12 years, Shiva Keshavan has been representing India at the Winter Olympics. In 1998, he was the youngest ever participant in luge. That’s an outstanding achievement. Unfortunately, cricket being the only sport on most Indians’ minds, I feel Keshavan hasn’t been given the credit he deserves for what he has done. Also, his talent and drive to compete, considering the lack of support he has had over the years, is amazing. I think the Alpine skiers Tashi Lundup and Jamyang Namgial have huge careers ahead of them. I hope India supports them all the way.
Are you interested in any specific winter sport? If so, which one? And have you tried it?
I am fascinated by most sports but I find winter sports far more dangerous and intriguing. Being a daredevil kind of man myself, I love ice hockey. The amazing ski jumps, and the snowboarding tricks wow me too. But being an actor and a family man, I can’t take such risks for the sake of amusement, though I would love to be able to train in such sports. If all goes well, you might see me on an ice- hockey rink in the near future.
Are you planning to visit Canada next month? If so, will you make it for the events these athletes are participating in?
I am trying. I would love to take my son to Canada for these events and show him that Indians who have come from such small villages have the strength to write history for their country and compete for India regardless of the struggles they face.
Do you think that in winter sports, where Europeans tend to dominate, athletes such as Keshavan have a chance of winning?
Yes, I do. I believe that Keshavan has a chance to win against even the strongest European athletes. My father taught me this while I was training in martial arts—“as a man, your mind and your heart are far superior muscles to the ones in your legs.” If Keshavan believes he can win, then so do I, for you will never find a larger heart than an Indian heart.
Keshavan says he struggled for a long time to get sponsorship. Given a chance to help these sportsmen, what are you likely to do? For example, would you recommend Keshavan for ‘Khatron Ke Khiladi’ (KKK)?
See I am only one man. Indians need to wake up and realize that we have to nurture sporting talent and support these athletes through and through, not just for a year before an event. Also, I like to believe that because I was a torch-bearer in Canada, many more Indians know about these sports now. But I know this is not enough. As for Keshavan in KKK, it sounds like a great idea, but we need more than just publicity for athletes. We need official, government funding, and unfortunately I am not a politician.