The 38-year-old had his first taste of the festival while training in Europe as a youngster.
Growing up in the foothills of the Himalayas with sub-zero climatic conditions for months at a stretch, snow sports and particularly luge, were the first sporting love for India’s six-time Winter Olympian Shiva Keshavan.
Despite having played several sports as a kid ranging from athletics to gymnastics, Keshavan had decided to pursue a career in a rather unconventional sport like luge, purely out of his immense passion for the pursuit.
The decision to stick to it paid off as he became one of India’s most celebrated athletes in the sport, representing the country in as many as six Olympic Games since 1998 and consequently becoming only the second Indian after Leander Paes to achieve this feat. He won 10 medals in the Asia Cup, including four golds and also holds the Asian all-time speed record.
Having been a big proprietor for luge in the country saw Keshavan travelling to different places and experience various cultures from a young age. Sharing one such incident from his early training days, Keshavan recalls the moment he fell in love with the festival of Christmas on the Alps mountain ranges.
Back in his native town, Christmas was not a festival celebrated with such gusto and it wasn’t until he travelled to Europe that he got an opportunity to experience the full grandeur of the festival. He was completely mesmerized by the scale of the festivities at which Christmas is celebrated worldwide.
Keshavan recalls, “Christmas is exciting, but I don't remember celebrating it much back home. It was this one time when I was up in the Alps in Europe training for a competition many years ago when I first got a taste of Christmas. The festival is at a whole different level there. Christmas to them is what Diwali is like to us. I consider myself lucky to have gotten to experience that culture up close.”
So, what is it about Christmas that Keshavan likes the most? “The spirit of Christmas is so positive, the ritual of gifting and sharing makes Christmas very special for me,” quips the 38-year-old.
After hanging up his boots in 2018, India’s luge legend finds himself spending a lot of time shuttling between India and Italy in a bid to develop winter sports and promote the Olympic Movement. Keshavan also runs a national talent scout program alongside managing a seasonal Italian restaurant in India.
Italy is not just a country of his mother’s origin but also the nation that offered him immense training support during his formative years.
Keshavan was given an opportunity to represent the country at the Winter Olympics, but, needless to say, the offer was politely declined by the Indian legend.