Young Achievers

Aanchal Thakur

Kullu (Himachal Pradesh)-based Aanchal Thakur (21) has made history by winning India its first international medal in skiing, a competitive winter sport. 

On January 9, this young skier who trained for 15 years on the snowy slopes of Manali’s Solang Valley, zipped down a skiing track with a vertical drop of 180 m with 62 turns in Erzurum (Turkey) in 2.33 minutes to bag India’s first ever medal in competitive skiing. The Alpine Ejder 3200 Cup Championship was organised by the Switzerland-based Federation Internationale de Ski (FIS).

“Winning India’s first ever medal in skiing was a huge moment for me and I was thrilled to receive prime minister Narendra Modi’s congratulatory tweet. The glowing messages I’ve received have made me more determined to bring home India’s first winter Olympics medal,” says this 21-year-old final year humanities student of DAV College, Chandigarh (Himachal Pradesh).

Born into a winter-sports loving family, Aanchal strapped on her first skies when she was five and started training under her cousin Heera Lal Thakur who qualified for the 2006 Winter Olympics. Since then, she has also competed in the Asian Children Ski Championship 2009 (Lebanon), Winter Youth Olympic Games 2012 (Austria) and Junior World Ski Championship 2016 (Russia).

Fortuitously, given her #1 ranking in India awarded by the FIS and her performance in international tournaments, Aanchal is qualified to attend FIS training camps (on the basis of points earned) for which she is sponsored by her father. “I am very thankful to my father for supporting me and hope to have some other sponsors in the near future to support me and this low-profile sport,” says Aanchal who follows a daily five-hour training regimen that includes practising downhill skiing and physical conditioning through push-ups, balancing acts, strength training and mental exercises. 

Enthused by the fulsome support of her family and friends, Aanchal’s dream is to hear the national anthem while standing on the podium during the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics. “I have intensified my training to win a medal in at least five international championships to qualify for the Beijing Olympics, and will be attending several intensive FIS training camps in Europe in the interim,” she says.

Swati Roy (Delhi)