My goal is to win medals for India internationally: Speed skater Anoli Shah

Interview with Indian speed skater Anoli Shah

Speed skater Anoli Shah recently won 3 gold and 1 bronze medal in the Gujarat State Roller Skating Association State Championship (GSRSA) and 1 Gold, 2 Silver and 3 Bronze medals in the Roller Skating Federation of India (RSFI). What started as an extracurricular activity has now resulted in 400 wins across 16 years. She is now aiming to win individual medals at the Asian Championship and secure a spot in the top 8 at the World Championship.

In this exclusive interview, Anoli Shah speaks about pursuing speed skating professionally, her experiences so far, special achievements, balancing education and skating, overcoming challenges and her future goals.

Q 1) You started skating at the age of 9 as an extracurricular activity. What motivated you to pursue it professionally?

I basically started skating in a summer vacation camp which was a beginners batch itself. After my batch got over I used to sit and see the national and pro level skaters showcase their skills. I would just sit in awe and I used to tell my dad that I want to be part of that group. At the end of my summer vacation there was a competition where I won two gold medals and my coach asked me if I wanted to continue in this sport and I gave him a big fat yes in response.

Q 2) How was the experience of winning medals at the Gujarat State Roller Skating Association State Championship and the Roller Skating Federation of India.

It was obviously a great feeling winning a national level medal. It is one of the most important tournaments in the country as all the leading skaters come to participate in this competition. The state championship is sort of a warmup for the nationals as winning this medal was very special but it doesn’t stop here as I aim to win a lot of international medals. The national championship gives you a good indication of where you stand amongst these elite skaters.

Q 3) You have achieved a number of accolades in your career. What is the most special achievement for you so far and why?

There are a lot of special races and medals that I have won but the one that is really close to my heart is when I won my first national medal in my first race as I only started skating 11 months ago and I subsequently made the team. Honestly I did not have any expectations, I just knew that I was racing in the nationals.

It was a time trial race as the quickest time around the 300m circuit would win the gold medal. I finished the race and after 15 minutes I realised that I won the gold medal in the very first attempt as an 11 year old. When I looked at my dad he was a bit teary as that was a moment I quite cherished and I decided that I wanted to have moments like this.

Also read: My goal is to win as many tournaments as possible: Esports athlete Simar Sethi

Q 4) You have a Masters in Business Administration (MBA) with a dual major in Marketing and Finance. How did you balance your skating career and your education?

It was a very difficult phase for me because I was living in a hostel. The food was not taken care of because I was supposed to eat in the hostel. My rest and recovery went for a toss because I had to attend back to back lectures and assignments. It was a full time program and at the same time I had to wake up at 4 A.M to do a training session then came back to attend the lecture before going to another training session in the evening. My track was about 15-20 KMs from the college which made it very difficult. It was definitely a very difficult time for me.

At that point I sat with my coach to set expectations and I wanted to set realistic expectations. We decided that I would not concentrate on being consistent rather than bettering my performance. That’s what I did as I tried to be as consistent as possible. It was a game of time management because I had absolutely no time for socialising. Those 2 years I got a lot of support from my family as they made sure that I get everything I need on time.

My mother would prepare food for me and make sure it reaches me in time. I was very fixated on making sure my skating doesn’t suffer because of my academics. I did everything I could and now things are easier and especially with ENGN backing me. ENGN is supporting female athletes in their sporting careers and they give them financial aid, food mentorship, etc. Now that I’m associated with ENGN, things have become much easier. It becomes easier for me to focus on training because everything else is taken care of.

Q 5) What are some of the biggest challenges you have faced in your skating career? How did you overcome them?

Skating is not a well known sport. If someone is playing cricket, Tennis or Badminton they do get support from the government. People see you as a professional sportsperson when you play those sports. Skating is not something that people think about as a professional sport. That was one challenge but when a person gets to know me better they realise how many hours I spend on skating and later they realise that this is serious.

The first impression of pursuing this sport professionally doesn’t come off as something serious. It is a dangerous sport because you’re skating at a speed of 40/45 KMPH. If something comes in between or the person in front of you falls, you are bound to lose your balance and fall. The chances of injury are very high in those situations. I have fallen a lot of times and had bruises all over my body while other people have multiple fractures.

You always hear that women should not be in sport or just keep it as a hobby. Those people don’t understand the passion and effort it takes to get there. Making those people understand is again a problem. The support from the schools and the government is not enough. You have to manage your finances and you have to fight and take out time for your training. The whole ecosystem is not supportive enough but it is getting better with time.

Q 6) What are some of your long and short term goals? How are you working towards achieving them?

My long term goal is obviously winning medals for India at Asian and World level. My short term goals include being the fastest skater in the country. It is currently the off season for me so I’m working on my strengthening and technique amongst other things. I’m following a very scientifically structured training program and I’m pairing it with proper nutrition. I’m trying to put at least 5 hours a day in training.


Share The Article:

Leave A Reply

Related news