World Tour on the Yeosu track: the Indian delegation
First step in Gandhi’s country: Welcome within the Indian delegation
The Indian delegation is made of 13 skaters amongst whom there are 8 juniors (including 3 women) and 5 seniors, 2 coaches, 1 judge and 4 officials representing the Indian federation. There is no doctor or physiotherapist.
Most of the skaters go to school and none of them make a living out of skating. However, depending on the province where they live, their local government (not national) sometimes gives them subventions – to be added to occasional financial support of some firms. The athletes are thus not in the same boat!
But this is not surprising: skating is far from being the national sport. Indeed, if the most popular sport in India is cricket, field hockey is the real national sport. Skating remains in the shadow in this country counting nearly 1.2 billion inhabitants, i.e. more than twice the total number of European citizens (in the 27 EU). The 500 skating clubs in India (a striking number at first) is probably minute compared to the other sports of the country.
The facilities in India
In total, eight skating tracks are scattered in the country and the first rings covered with Vesmaco (cf. the track in Rennes, FRA) are at the planning stage. If there is no real road circuit dedicated to skating, one of the coaches explains that “it doesn’t really matter as the skaters train in the early morning on the expressways (!!!)” and adding when he sees our astounded faces that “of course there is a support vehicle to protect the skaters.” Phew! We’re (almost) relieved! Sometimes the local government agrees and closes a couple of roads for the skaters to train safely this time. There are in fact a dozen of big clubs here and there in the different provinces of the country. They receive numerous young children to train them, not only with inline skates, but also (and above all) with quad skates!
Public notice for those who are nostalgic for quad skates!
Hold on, every year in India there are the speed skating national championships (nothing special). But the specialty lies in the organization of these championships, which are divided into two parts:
- 1st part: inline championships. The distances are similar to the French ones, on track as on road circuits. 500 skaters take part each year.
- 2nd part: quad championships! Distances are 300m, 500m and 1000m on road. 700 skaters take part each year, i.e. more than for inline skating!
In fact, India never stopped organizing quad skating championships since the arrival of inline skates, and quad skating remained very popular in the country. If the Indian federation maintained these competitions, it is particularly because “it enables to increase the number of skaters, to go on with the development of our sport, and quad skates contribute a lot to it” the Indian coach says.
As for the Indian championships, in fact there are two, and this is justified by the immensity of the country. This deserves some explanations: The first championship is the one we’ve just talked about, which is called the “national championship”. The latter takes place each year in the end of December or in early January. Only the best athletes of the 27 provinces are selected for this event. As for the second, it is called the “Warrior tournament”. It’s been created only a couple of years ago and it takes place in May. Every Indian can take part. As the event meets a great success, its organizers already think of making it international! Trip and adventure lovers, keep an eye on it…
Back to Yeosu and the World Championships
To be selected and compete in Yeosu, the Indian skaters had to meet some criteria: having a medal from the national championships and having taken part in the Asian Games or in the World Championships of last year.
Once selected, the skaters are trained intensively through two “India Team” courses of two weeks, in Vishakhpatnam in June and in Ahmedabab in August just before going to Korea.
For this 13-day trip (they arrived on Aug.26th i.e. four days before the beginning of the championship), the expenses are payable by the skaters and their families, but also by the supervision. However most of them receive support from their local government (not national) a posteriori. The National government only gives subventions to medaled athletes… The coach wanted to precise that “the skaters come from all kinds of families, even from the less favored ones. The young who lack resources often receive some kind of sponsorship from enterprises, which enables them to come and take part in competitions such as the World championships.”
The objectives of the selection are as following: “You have to be the most competitive as possible” one of the coaches says, before adding that “for the 300m, the ideal thing would have been to go under the 26’’… 25’’999 would have been awesome. Our skater didn’t do that well with 26’’35, but still it’s not that bad. We improve each year, that’s what matters.” More generally speaking, the aim is to enter the Top-20. A Junior has managed the feat for his first long-distance race, ending up 18th, making his coaches’ pride and happiness.
As for their opponents, the Indians focus on the Asian countries, and particularly on Japan, Indonesia, Iran but also China. It is useless to talk about South Korea or Chinese Taipei “they are unreachable!” “We would like to become 3rd in Asia, this is our short and medium term objective!” the coach concludes, and then he adds a personal note destined to the readers of OnlineSkating:
“India is getting into the world scenario and within 3 years, we are targeting the top 10 position at world level. We would love to come to France and train with Arnaud Gicquel [Who he skated against, at the last championship in 1993 during which quad skates were used]. He was, and still remains in everybody’s mind, a great champion and person. And whenever there is any international event, please, do invite us!”
Coach of the Indian team
Next step: Pakistan!
Website of the event
Pictures of the other side of the World, skating in India
Episode 10: World Tour on the Track of Yeosu: Welcome to Australia!
Episode 09: World Tour on the Track of Yeosu: The Argentinian Delegation
Episode 08: World Tour on the track of Yeosu: Welcome to Chile!
Episode 07: World Tour on the Track of Yeosu: Venezuela
Episode 06: World Tour on the Track of Yeosu: The South-East Asian delegations
Episode 05: World Tour on the track of Yeosu: The Singaporean Delegation
Episode 04: World Tour on the Trach of Yeosu: The delegation of Indonesia
Episode 03: World Tour on the Track of Yeosu: The South-African delegation
Episode 02: World Tour on the Trach of Yeosu: The Pakistani delegation
Episode 01: World Tour on the Yeosu track: the Indian delegation
Translated by Close Yr E’s
Pictures: Léa Réguer-Petit, LHDQ