Skiing champion Rashael Kanwal overcomes challenges to reach the peakRekha Balakrishnan
The 24-year-old Alpine skiing champion from Narkanda in Shimla is preparing for the Winter Olympics and wants to ski down Mount Everest.
The snow-capped mountains called, and she listened. Rashael Kanwal was just two-and-a-half years old when she started skiing in Narkanda, a small town in Shimla, Himachal Pradesh.
Today, the 24-year-old is a former Alpine skiing champion, and a professional on the international skiing circuit who is raring to go as she prepares for competitions in 2018 and 2019. She is also looking forward to training under Giorgio Rocca, a name to reckon with in the skiing world.
“My father used to go skiing every winter on the ski slopes. When I was two years old, he and and a friend of his, Jampa Negi used to take me along and help me practise. Jampa saw my potential and encouraged my father to allow me to train for championships… he made me who I am today,” she recalls.
Rasheal took up the sport professionally in 2005, when she participated in the “2005 Youngest National Ski Champion”. She was ranked fourth due to a fall. She was ranked sixth in the “16th Asia Alpine Ski Championship 2007 Korea”.
“Not at all a great start! But according to me; my start was motivational since the judges and the other champions who were present during the championships appreciated my performance,” she says.
Since then, she has represented Indian seven times at the international level, and four times in the nationals, winning eight gold medals, and taking part over in 22 tournaments.
“Skiing is my life, and without it, life is nothing. I have a passion for it, and I am committed to make my country proud,” she reiterates.
Rashael’s life took a challenging turn when ski officials from Manali blocked her FIS Code (a global safety code given to each skiing sportsperson) which kept her from competing.
“I was never informed of any matches after 2013. I was majorly affected by the politics played by the ski organisations. They didn’t know they had blocked my dreams, and how important they were for me. I was devastated at first, but then I considered it as one of the small obstacles in life that I had to face and overcome,” she says.
“For the past seven years, I have been battling to get my FIS Code back. Now that I am getting it back with the help of the law, I am overjoyed and overwhelmed. I will be off to a fresh start, and my only answer to my detractors will be my wins for my country,” adds Rashael.
As a woman, does she feel skiing is a difficult sport to pursue. “Not at all,” she emphasises. “Sports is equal for each and every gender. It’s all about the people you meet in life – they can either motivate you or break you. You need to keep going in the right direction and meet people who are good for you.”
And therin lies the mantra she follows through as she skiis her way to the top. “Every failure is an opportunity from God to make your realise your real strength. Never give up.”
The “time is now” for Rashael, as she prepares for the Winter Olympic Games and the Alpine Ski Championship. “I am highly motivated right now and want to win golds for my country.” Apart from this, she wants to attempt to ski down Mount Everest the whole way without taking any break.”
The champion is inspired by “every woman committed to sports in some form”, apart from Mikaela Shiffrin, the world champion skier from the US.
In her day job, Rashael works as an auditor at a co-operative society. She is passionate about writing short stories and poems and is a polyglot.
The lure of the mountains is as strong as ever. “They tell me to have an adventure, to be brave and take risks,” she says, signing off.