In early February, Moham mad Arif Khan will be making his Winter Olympic debut in Beijing. But even before he steps out on the course, he has made history as the first Indian to have qualified for two events at the quadrennial event—the slalom and the giant slalom disciplines of alpine skiing. It’s a sport that features ath letes rushing down a snow slope at breakneck speeds of over 70 kmph, while twist ing past flags en route to the finish line. Each run is about shedding infinitesimal frac tions of time and each run comes down to the perfor mance of your body’s every muscle, sinew and twitch.
So, alongside the phy sical aspects of training, Khan, 31, has also been spending much time tuning his mind these days. “Speed is everything as you rush downhill while at the same time trying to maintain the right movements to stay inline and take on the turns. To pull it off, you have to be very strong mentally, really brave. If you are brave enough, the rest of the things simply fall in place,” he says. Khan knows a thing or two about being fearless in the face of adversity. It is what has allowed him to pursue the sport over the past 15 years or so. And most times, against all odds.
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