First thing first. Mohammad Arif Khan is the first and only Indian to win direct quota spots in two different Winter Olympics events. He will compete in the Men's slalom and Men's giant slalom events at the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, which begin February 4. (More Sports News)
The Beijing Winter Games open on Friday, just six months after Tokyo closed. They'll be followed by the Summer Olympics in 2024 in Paris. Beijing is the most unlikely city to be the first to host both the Summer and Winter Olympics. Of all the Winter Olympic hosts, it has the least tradition in winter sports. Read more about it HERE.
For India, Arif Khan will carry the flag and, he will hopefully produce a memorable performance.
So how well do you know Arif Khan, the skier from Jammu & Kashmir?
Arif Khan, 31, hails from the Hajibal Tangmarg. He has represented India four times in the World Championships.
Arif Khan started skiing at the age of four. His father Yasin Khan owns a ski equipment shop in Gulmarg. And he turned to competitive skiing at 10.
At 12, Arif Khan became a national champion in the slalom event. Arif was 16 when he made his international debut at a junior international ski federation (FIS) event in Yomase, Japan.
Arif Khan won two gold medals, in the slalom and giant slalom, at the 2011 South Asian Winter Games.
In 2013, he first competed in the FIS World Ski Championships. He finished 59th in the slalom and 91st in the giant slalom. It was followed by more world championship appearances.
Arif also competed at the 2017 Asian Winter Games held in Sapporo, Japan.
Arif Khan's best finish at the worlds was 45th in the giant slalom at the 2021 edition. And he's realistic target modest top-30 finish in the Beijing Games.
"I have been training over a couple of years seriously and my expectation is to be in world's top 30. To be in top 30 is like medal winners in the world," he said before leaving for Beijing.
He qualified for the slalom event in November 2021 and earned the giant slalom quota in December, thus becoming the first Indian to win direct quota spots in two different Winter Olympics events.
Before the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Games, Arif Khan had to turn to crowdfunding to cover expenses. But it proved a futile exercise.
Arif Khan was subsequently included in the Target Olympic Podium Scheme (TOPS) core group, India's flagship programme to support potential Olympic medallists.
He was planning to get married in September 2021, but postponed to focus on 2022 Winter Olympics qualifications.
Now, he will be seen in action on February 13 (giant slalom) and 16 (slalom). He left for Beijing on January 31. The Indian contingent, with Harjinder Singh as the Chef De Mission, has left for Beijing on January 31. Singh is the general secretary of the Ice Hockey Association of India.
Schedule And Telecast Details
DD Sports TV will telecast the opening ceremony. The live streaming of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics will be on www.Olympics.com
February 13, Sunday
Giant Slalom, Run 1 – 7:45 AM IST;
Giant Slalom Run 2 – 11:15 AM IST
February 16, Wednesday
Slalom, Run 1 – 7:45 AM IST;
Slalom Run 2 – 11:15 AM IST
So, what are these events?
Men's slalom and Men's giant slalom are two of the 11 Alpine skiing events approved for the Beijing Games. Other events are Men's downhill, Men's Super G, Men's combined, Women's giant slalom, Women's slalom, Women's super-G, Women's downhill, Women's combined and Team event.
In slalom and giant slalom, competitors skii between sets of poles or gates positioned at a distance from each other. The distance is greater in giant slalom. The goal is to clock the quickest time possible while passing through the poles. Each athlete gets two runs and the cumulative time decides the ranking and winners.
Alpine skiing at the 2022 Winter Olympics will be held at the Xiaohaituo Alpine Skiing Field in Yanqing District.
Beijing 2022 will see India's smallest contingent, with only Arif Khan making the cut, since the Salt Lake 2002 Games, where luger Shiva Keshavan was the country’s only representative.
In the last edition, Sochi 2018, India had a contingent of two — Jagdish Singh (cross country skiing) and Shiva Keshavan (luge).