New Delhi (India), April 12: Indian ice-speed-skating athlete Vishwaraj Jadeja recently became the first Indian athlete to have skated 100 kms on the Frozen Sea in Sweden, as part of the Sea Ice Classic, Lulea. It was the first time an Indian has attempted and finished such a feat. His finish time was 4 hours 53 minutes which was right on top of the time sheets. The temperatures dropped to -5°C with occasional rain and snow. He aims to finish 200kms next year.
Vishwaraj has had a fantastic season where he qualified for the World Cups which are a stepping stone to the Winter Olympics. While he was able to participate in only 1 World Cup event, he was 1/4th of a second away from Olympic qualifying time in the Mass Start race.
The Olympics require qualification time and participation in 3 World Cup events. Unfortunately, Vishwaraj was unable to race in the other 2 World Cups due to various logistical issues. “Once the visa did not arrive on time since embassies are understaffed and thus overworked, due to the pandemic. Another time a sponsor did not come through on their promise and we couldn’t reach a race.”, he says. He highlights the struggles of an athlete competing in a sport that isn’t “famous” or “glamorous” like many others in India. He says with a smile, “For the past many years, official funds are not released on time from relevant organizations which hampers all planning during the race season. With India lacking any proper winter sports infrastructure, the odds have always been stacked against us anyway. Some last races getting cancelled due to the pandemic did not help either.”
Long-track speed-skating is an elite sport and it has been a part of the Winter Olympics Charter since almost a 100 years. Elite because there are 14 gold medals to be won which is more than any other sport at the Winter Olympics.
Vishwaraj is the 3rd generation of a sporting family. His grandfather played Hockey for the Gujarat University. His aunt represented India in Roller Figure Skating at the World Championships. So it is only normal that for him the pursuit was the Olympics.
As mentioned earlier, he has had a tremendous season this year.
– 1 National Record on the 5kms broken for India (His 66th National Record for India)
– Qualified for the World Cups (Mass Start)
– 2nd position on the Annual Club Races of SVU (outdoor) (first Indian )
– 2nd position on the Closing Marathon of the rack (outdoor) (first Indian )
– 100kms on the Frozen Swedish Ice Sea Classic. (The first Indian to attempt and complete this)
About his achievement in the 100kms attempt he says “It was not going to be enough to just show up now. The “Indian” ice skater had to make an impact. And I am proud we did exactly that!”
India does not have a proper Winter Sports infrastructure today. In spite of that India has had Winter Olympians. “I was not supposed to get so far but I did it with less than 10% of required resources. I just imagine what could happen if we get even 10% more resources. I mean, it took Sachin Tendulkar 6 World Cups to win 1.“ He closes by saying, “Almost made it this time around. But well, almost doesn’t matter. I am from India so it’s only a matter of time that I get to the Olympics.”