On the evening of January 7, while sharpening her ski blades, Aanchal Thakur suffered a cut on her right hand and the blood won’t stop oozing. She rushed to a doctor to get the gash stitched.
But the braveheart was still in the line-up for the slalom race the next morning. Due to the injury, she couldn’t complete the race. But in the next scheduled FIS race on January 9, she was at the start, determined to complete the circuit come what may. And when she did finish her race, she found she had etched her name in the annals of special Indian sporting moments.
Aanchal, 21, claimed bronze in the Alpine Ejder 3200 Cup meeting held at the Palandoken Ski Centre in Erzurum in Turkey on Tuesday, becoming the first Indian skier to win a medal in an international race.
“It was a difficult circuit and in the beginning I was not even confident of completing it. When I discussed my fear with my training mate, she advised me to take it as another training session and aim to complete the circuit. Eventually I was able to do it, and as say, rest is history,” an elated Aanchal said on phone from Turkey.
“You will find a scar on the hands of skiers as at times they get hurt while tuning the ski blades. I used to think it will never happen to me. Now, I too have a battle scar,” adds Aanchal, who hails from Burva village in the hill resort of Manali.
Turkey is a lucky destination for Aanchal’s family. It was on the same course where she won her first medal in an FIS (international ski federation) event that her brother had earned qualification for the 2014 Winter Olympics.
“We have a close connection with Turkey,” says Aanchal. “Earning an Olympic quota place was a memorable moment for our family and now again the slopes have proved lucky for us.”
Aanchal has represented the Panjab University in wushu. “In 2016, on the insistence of my sports teacher in DAV College, I started wushu training and won silver in inter-college competition. We hardly get support from the sports ministry, but my father takes care of expenses. My only disappointment is that even in a place like Chandigarh, people have little idea that winter sports exists in the country. It is a tough sport and we have to toil like any other sportsperson,” adds Aanchal, who has been training for 14 years and took part in the 2012 Youth Winter Olympics.
When she is not speeding down the ski slopes, Aanchal likes to paint and model. “Whenever I have free time from skiing, I am busy painting. Recently, I modelled for a Punjab music video. It will be released soon.
“I came to Chandigarh to go to college and got an opportunity to model.”