Challenges have defined my journey. When I couldn’t afford the equipment, I borrowed from others until I figured out how to build my own. India doesn’t have a luge track, so I found a way to train on the mountain roads. One of the biggest challenges has been that no one in India believed that a sport career is sustainable, or that I could find funding, but I believed that it was possible to make the corporate houses of India partners in this journey. Today I have a wonderful set of companies supporting me: Hero Electronix, Hero FinCorp, Mallcom India, Deloitte and Samsung, they all believe in what I am trying to achieve.
The great thing that sport teaches you is that you can compete against each other while respecting your opponents and wishing the best for them. When my sled broke in Canada, I had no way of competing, and it was an important Olympic qualifying event for the 2018 Winter Olympics. But Daria Obartov’s (a fellow luger from Croatia) race was a little after my own, and she offered to lend me hers, despite the risks, because I think all the athletes trust and help each other in times of need.
If you get fulfilment and satisfaction from what you do, the cynicism of others is irrelevant. That is why it’s important for people to follow their passions. Against the generally cynical attitude in Indian society against unconventional career options, that’s what keeps me motivated.
It has been personally very satisfying to have been able to follow my passion and realise my dreams with the support and love of so many people along the way. It’s been an incredible journey [to represent India at six Winter Olympics]. I’ve had the honour and privilege of carrying the Indian tricolour all over the world and hoisting it in so many places for the first time, since making my debut in the games.
Luge is a tight-knit community because we all know each other well, and we understand the risks we face on a daily basis, which brings us together. I think this is part of the larger message of sport and one of the reasons the sport is a part of the United Nations world heritage.
The real fight is against yourself, to surpass the limits you think you have. This is what has been my biggest learning from luge in all these years. I try to learn from my mistakes to continue to evolve and get better, but regrets are not something I live by.
I started off in a country with no tradition of luge and with no backing in terms of facilities, coaching, equipment or funding. Despite that, I have slowly managed to overcome some of the Asian powerhouses. It will take more [than this] to rise to the top of the World and Olympic ranks. The field at the Olympic level is more competitive than what it is at the Asian level.
I’ve never had an idol or someone who I wanted to emulate. I believe that everyone must find their own, unique path. It doesn’t mean that I don’t get inspired by what others around me are doing; one can seek inspiration from anything and anyone.
I train full-time for about five months a year both technically on track and physically [to keep up with the fitness requirements at international level]. The rest of the year is about athletic preparation and, in my case, also working to fund my career. I still have time to find a new direction once my career in luge is over. It will be quite a hard decision.
For me it is about living in the moment, fully committing to its challenges while at the same time being open to new experiences and continuing the learning process both in sport and life. My latest challenge, the 2018 Winter Games, also happen to be the beginning of Asia’s coming of age in international sport, since the next three Olympics (PyeongChang 2018, Tokyo 2020 and Beijing 2022) are all being held in Asia.