Shiva Keshavan has always found his path strewn with adversities but it seems the tide is finally turning in his favour as he has has been landed an opportunity to train with the world-class US national luge team in the run-up to his fifth Winter Olympic appearance.
"I`ll be training with the highly advanced US Luge team in the run-up to the (2014) Sochi Games but before that I need to sign an MoU with them. Everything has been finalised as my talks with them are at an advanced stage and we are in the process of finalising the agreement," Keshavan said on his return to the country after spending time in Europe.
"I would be soon travelling to the US to plan out my training programme. The idea is to get enough exposure before setting off to defend my Asian title and compete in the nine World Cups later this year," said the `fastest Indian on ice`.
Keshavan also informed that he was engaged in an active discussion with a leading Indian company, a pioneer in Research and Development (R&D) field, to provide him with advanced scientific training and equipments.
"I can`t reveal you the name of the company as the deal has not been finalised as yet. It will take us 2-3 weeks before making an announcement. All I can tell you is that the company invests a lot in R&D and they would be providing me with hi-tech materials, aero-dynamics, new sled, equipments and scientific training. It`s a technical collaboration which would be of big help to me," said Keshavan, who holds a top speed record of 149.9kmph.
The 31-year-old has identified three key areas to work upon in his bid to become the first Indian to win a medal at the Winter Olympics.
"First is getting the quality equipment and training. Then the initial propulsion, if I can improve upon my initial thrust by 2-3 seconds, it will be great. I am concentrating on start specific training. Third is technique because each track is different and you need to have the knowledge of the track. I am working on these aspects of my game," he said.
All his practice sessions would be organised keeping in mind the 2014 Games and Keshavan hopes to keep his world ranking consistent.
"There is a gap of one second between me and the current Olympic gold medallist, so I need to cut that time to half. My performance is getting better with each passing day. Another target would be to achieve my personal best timing, reach that benchmark first in coming weeks and then breach the previous Olympic record," he said.
"Other targets include retaining my Asian Championship title for the third time, improving my world ranking which is currently at 37 and then one week of training at Sanki Sliding Centre in Sochi probably in the first week of November before the nine World Cups," he added,
Talking about the Olympic qualification criteria, Keshavan said, "First five World Cups are very important for qualifying. Top 40 in the world rankings will qualify for the Olympics. World Cups determine your starting order for the Games. The earlier you start, better the chance of posting a good timing and getting into medal contention."
Keshavan aims to be ready by the time ice training begins in September in Lillehammer, Norway to test new equipments.
The luger from Himachal Pradesh was among the first few international athletes who were invited to test the Sanki track last year.
"It`s a first of its kind track and an engineering marvel. The track has a few peculiar technical features. There are three uphill sections which introduce a new challenge and also act as a safety measure. Gravitational force will play an important role there to get more acceleration," Keshavan said.
Born to an Indian father and Italian mother, not many know that Keshavan had declined an offer to represent the Italian flag more than a decade ago.
Keshavan said on more than one occasion, the thought of quitting the sport crossed his mind due to lack of funds to compete in international events but his passion and determination saw him weather all storms.