With sportswomen like Sakshi Malik and PV Sindhu making us all proud at the Rio Olympics 2016, we caught up with ice skater Shruti Kotwal, who's proof that if you believe in yourself, you will achieve what you set out to!
Cosmo: Ice Skating is not the most popular sport in India…how did you get into it?
Shruti Kotwal: "I'm a national-level gold medalist in roller skating. But it had very limited opportunities and frankly, the local politics was quite demotivating. Eventually, I decided to give ice skating a shot. In Shimla, there's a small ice skating rink, which hosts a national camp and various competitions every year. The fact that it is an Olympic sport and more globally recognised, I decided to make the switch."
C: You've been training in Canada for the past couple of years…any particular reason you decided to go there?
SK: "I have been training there for 12 months to be precise—which a couple of months over one full training season. Three years ago, I won a scholarship from ISU (International Skating Union) to try out speed skating in Germany. And Canadian speed skater Jeremy Wotherspoon, who was my coach there, suggested I should go train in Canada, since I a beginner." C: Winter sports such as ice skating have often been plagued with a lack of funding in India. Did you ever face any such issues in pursuing your passion?
SK: "Oh many! So much so, that I had to look for private sponsors (although I didn't really find one). In India, athletes are only supported once they've proved their mettle. Whereas, what people don't understand is that sportspersons needs proper infrastructure to hone their skills. The lack of support definitely reflects on the performance... And it's obviously quite difficult to keep yourself constantly motivated!"
C: Last year, you shaved almost three seconds from your timing, breaking your own national record... How did that feel?
SK: "Yes, definitely even a little progress is very motivating. I still need to bring it down to a few more seconds to be able to compete at the world competitions, but compared to the amount of training I have received on the ice, the improvement has been significantly good."
C: There's often prejudice attached to women within the realm of sport in India. How has your journey been? SK: "It's true and it's quite unfortunate. Just like many other professions, gender inequality is prevalent in sports too. Women athletes are not treated as well as our male counterparts. I experienced it firsthand when I started coaching roller skating three years ago…when the local coaches without any credentials would treat me badly, someone who had enough experience! And that's when I decided to start my own academy."
C: What has been the most defining moment of your career?
SK: "It has to be winning the South Asian Championship. I won the gold medal in all distances (500m, 1,000m, 1,500m). When your efforts pay off, it's the most amazing feeling in the world."
C: What plans do you have for the future?
SK: "Currently, I'm just working on shaving off more seconds to be able to qualify for world championships and represent India at the international circuit."
C: Is there anyone who inspired your or do you have a favorite sportsperson in India?
SK: "Mary Kom is one of my favorites. Her story is proof that if you really want to achieve something, nothing can stop you. I admire her dedication and the fact that she has managed her personal life along with her professional one beautifully."
C: What would you like to say to upcoming sportspersons in the country…especially women?
SK: "I'd just like to say...never ever give up. You should guard your goal with perseverance and dedication. Stay focused and grounded, and you will achieve what you set out to!"