Six-time Olympian Shiva Keshavan finds Beijing 2022 "tempting" but has new goals for 2026

The Indian luge athlete wants to focus on preparing the next generation of winter athletes for a potential debut in 2026, which you can also chat to him about in an Airbnb experience.

By Sanjeev Palar
Picture by 2018 Getty Images

Shiva Keshavan has admitted that he's having to resist the urge to make a comeback in luge for the upcoming Beijing 2022 Olympic Winter Games.

The six-time Olympian shared exclusively with Olympic Channel that he's putting aside his desire to compete for his country, and instead focussing his efforts on helping develop the next generation of sports stars in India.

"It takes all of my self control to not jump into artificial track luge once again. It's very tempting for me. But I recognise that if I am not there to lead the development program for luge in India, then nobody else is." - Shiva Keshavan to Olympic Channel

"I don't want to be the only athlete"

Keshavan made his debut at the Nagano 1998 Games when he was just sixteen years old, setting the record as the youngest luge Olympian in history.

He was the sole representative of his nation on that occasion, and again in 2002 at Salt Lake City. For a nation of over one billion people, there has never been more than four athletes competing at a Winter Olympics, and the 39-year-old is now focusing his efforts on changing that.

He is currently working on creating a sports development plan for India, with the intention of using "the power of sport to usher in development, especially in the Himalayas," where he was born and brought up.

One of the challenges he has faced trying to develop winter sports in India is perception. He shares that "people may think it's a far fetched idea because many people identify India as a tropical country," he shares.

"It is often overlooked that we have over 3,000 kilometers of Himalayan mountain chain in our country and there's over 50 million people living in this in this area." - Shiva Keshavan

The potential is there, but as he points out, "we don't have so many training venues. We don't have so much infrastructure. So I'm actively engaged with the government, with the Olympic Association, the sports federations, to find a sustainable way forward for this."

He is also looking at the broader picture and the potential growth of winter sports in these regions.

"Winter sports becomes a real development opportunity, not just for competitive sport, but for everything else that it can usher in," he says.

"From livelihoods, to infrastructure, to other associated industries such as health and transportation and media."

Paving a pathway for the future

The Indian Luge Federation has also appointed him as their high performance director.

Keshavan explains that he is responsible for writing the roadmap for the development of luge in India over the next four, eight, and twelve-year period. That entails, "talent scout training, building infrastructure, and building the high performance programme."

This is why he opted out of competing at the upcoming Games in Beijing, in order to oversee the execution of the development plan which focusses on young athletes.

"I'm looking at a little longer term plan. And so my focus right now is the Milano Cortina [2026] Games." - Shiva Keshavan

And despite his affinity for luge, he's taking a more holistic approach in his roles in hope that there will be a bigger representation by India in a wider spectrum of winter sports, citing "other athletes that have been doing well in skiing, snowboarding, and cross-country as well."

This also means that for the first time since his debut in 1998, India will not have a luge athlete compete in the Winter Games in 2022, a decision that he has to grapple with. But he recognises that he can't be an athlete and try to lead the development, because, as he puts it, "I will always be the only athlete. I don't want that situation to continue."

"The kids deserve the chance to be mentored and to have and experience the things that I have been able to do in the Olympic movement that really has shaped my life." - Shiva Keshavan

Discover the ingredients to life with Shiva

Despite his new roles and responsibilities, Keshavan has also managed to make time to open up his home to fans around the world and take them on a culinary adventure through his partnership with Airbnb.

"I think it's been great because we're living in a time where everybody is isolating in their own little bubble and this helps us to reach out to other people." His experience is centered around food and what it means to him as an athlete, adding "nutrition is central to the experience of an athlete. That's something I want to share with people."

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