Essel World To Ice Skating C’ships: Inspiring Story Of Tapkir Brothers

Egged on by their mother Sunanda, a former national kabaddi player, Sumit and Suyog Tapkir were inspired by a video of Olympic champion Apolo Ohno to take up ice skating. They have since bagged international laurels, and shone at the Khelo India Winter Games 2024 in Leh

Photo: Khelo India
International ice skaters Suyog (left) and Sumit Tapkir have done well for Maharashtra in the Khelo India Winter Games 2024 in Leh. Photo: Khelo India

The Tapkir brothers Sumit and Suyog, hailing from a humble agrarian background, have transformed their initial reluctance to becoming national gold medallists in an unconventional sport. Their mother, a former national kabaddi player from the 1980s, played a pivotal role in nurturing their sports journey, turning an unlikely beginning into a success story on the ice. (More Sports News)

In 2010, their coach introduced them to ice skating, a proposition they initially hesitated to embrace. Twenty-three-year-old Sumit Tapkir recalls the turning point, saying, "Everything changed when we saw a video of Apolo Ohno gliding on the skates. A skater would only truly understand, and we were obsessed." Inspired by Ohno, who transitioned from roller skating to ice skating and became an Olympic champion, the brothers set their sights on the same path.

Their journey began with the 2010 Chanchung World Development Trophy in China, and despite their limited exposure to natural ice-hockey rinks, Suyog, now 25, won gold and Sumit bagged silver in a short track race after just one month of training.

After the CWDT at China, their eldest brother Sanjog, a roll ball roller skater, coached them, keeping expenses low. Suyog emphasizes the affordability of the sport, saying, "Although it's not expensive in terms of equipment, training can be costly as we often had to travel abroad."

The family often practiced at Essel World's artificial ice hockey rink on weekends. However, as their ambitions grew, natural ice training became imperative. Financial constraints posed a challenge, given their parents' farming background as the sole source of income. Despite discouragement from others, their mother, Sunanda Tapkir, a former athlete herself, remained a steadfast supporter.

Sunanda encouraged her sons to pursue sports from a young age, taking them for roller-skating lessons and overseeing their practices. All three brothers now proudly represent India at World Cups and championships, nationally and internationally.

Even though it was their first time at the Khelo India Winter Games 2024 in Ladakh, the Tapkir brothers are no strangers to natural ice rinks. They have had solid experience at the National Ice Hockey Championships in Shimla, where Sumit won gold in 2011 and 2012, and Suyog bagged a gold and a bronze in 2013 and 2014.

In the 2023 Khelo India Winter Games in Gulmarg, Suyog grabbed a pair of gold, and Sumit secured a silver. They also showcased their skills at the 2024 National Ice Hockey Championship in Kaza.

At the Khelo India Winter Games in Ladakh, Sumit and Suyog impressed in the above-17 category for short track speed skating (300m), with Suyog getting the silver and Sumit the bronze. They proudly brought home the 1600m relay gold for Maharashtra, adding another highlight to their successful journey.

Choosing ice skating over more common sports like roller skating, Suyog notes, "Switching from roller skates to ice skates came with exposure." The brothers commend the excellent arrangements for sportsmen in Ladakh, highlighting the positive impact on their performance when traveling and accommodation are well-managed.

The brothers' achievements speak volumes – from winning medals at the Chanchung World Development Trophy in 2010 to becoming the first juniors to qualify for the ice skating world championship in 2013-14. Suyog with nine internationals, 21 nationals, 12 state championships and numerous awards, and Sumit too with an impressive record of 11 internationals, 12 nationals, and multiple awards continue to make the nation proud.

Looking ahead, both express their aspirations for the Winter Olympics, emphasizing the importance of hard work. The Tapkir brothers' inspiring journey from Essel World, the amusement park’s ice hockey rink to international championships showcases the transformative power of dedication, family support, and the pursuit of one's dreams in the face of adversity.