Shruti Kotwal : India’s Fastest Female Ice Speed Skater

An average person, spends 71% of his life working on his career. This means 31 ½ years of 45 years till retirement. So what would it mean to choose a career that only a handful people choose amongst 138 crore Indians ? Shruti Kotwal, the ace ice speed skater of India presents such a case.

She is the only female ice skater of our nation. To think of ice skating as a career in a tropical country like India with average sports culture, is like extracting water out of rocks. Yet Shruti took this challenge and with commendable courage and crushing stubbornness, scaled this rock.

So come let’s witness the journey of this Pune based ‘Stubborn Warrior’, who skates with passion in the hailstorm of adversaries.

Rolling to Gliding

Shruti started roller skating as a hobby at the age of 7. As an amateur, she started participating in various competitions.


Initially, Shruti lost quite a lot of races. Most of us, when facing failures, get dejected and quit. On the contrary, Shruti took them as challenges. Soon, her skates became her shoes of choice and skating her passion.


Soon, Shruti started dominating India’s top roller skating events. She won gold medals at nationals. After scaling to the summit of roller skating, Shruti got to know that now it was only downhill from there on.


“Roller skating had minimal opportunities on the international front. And frankly, the local politics was quite demotivating. Eventually, I decided to give ice skating a shot.” reveals Shruti.


In 2008, Shruti witnessed national winter games in Shimla. She tried ice skating(A drag race on ice, in which players wear skates with blades) there and got fascinated by the explosivity and agility needed for the sprinters coupled with strength and endurance in Speed Skating.

From Adversity To Opportunities : Shruti Kotwal

However, this decision meant that she will have to come back to square one. She was not an inline(wheels in straight line) skater, she almost always skated on quad roller skates. Therefore, she had to unlearn a lot of things. Also lack of facilities made the shift even harder.


“There’s only one Ice Skating training camp in a year, that too in Shimla. With that amount of exposure, it is next to impossible to beat the seasoned opponents on an international stage,” Shruti explained, highlighting the poor state of ice skaters in the country.


Shruti didn’t even have access to a rink round the year. She used to practice roller skating in Pune trying to imitate the movements employed in ice skating. This shows the sorry state of Indian Sports System, which is unable to provide a bare minimum infrastructure for an Olympic Sport.

Breaking Doors to a Glorious Career

No facilities, no recognition and no support. These three phrases define Shruti’s conditions. She trained day in and day out with uncertainty written all over her future. Also she won her first gold medal at the National Winter Games 2009. Though it was not enough for her to prove her mettle.

“In India, most athletes don’t think beyond the national level. They are happy to retire with little to no recognition. I didn’t want to be like them. I wanted to make my mark at the world level ” shares the passionate skater.

2011, the South Asian Championships brought an international opportunity home. They were held in Dehradun. Shruti just ripped every race apart and won three gold medals in 500m ,1000m and 1500m becoming the overall champion.

Motivated by the success, Shruti increased her efforts exponentially. At times efforts put up by people don’t get the needed facility to thrive upon. But as they say, ‘Destiny eventually finds the passionate ones.’

In 2012, International Skating Union (ISU) recognized Shruti’s efforts and offered her a scholarship. Shruti was presented with an opportunity to speed skate in Germany. It was not at all a small achievement. As this made her the only Indian Athlete recognised by ISU.

During the camp, she was coached by one of the greatest Ice Skater’s of the world, Jeremy Wotherspoon. Shruti’s performance caught his eye and he became her first coach. That is what you call a combination of stubbornness and luck.

 

 

When There Is Will There is A Way : Shruti Kotwal

“I was overwhelmed when I got to know that he (Jeremy) would be my coach. I always wanted to learn from basics, and there was no one in India who could teach me that. All the ice skater s in India are pretty much self-taught,” expressed an elated Shruti

Jeremy suggested Shruti move to Calgary, Canada, the best place to hone skating skills. But to make such a bold move was not easy. Shruti was still in her college. Moving to a different country and living alone is something considered off-limits for a girl by our society. But Shruti’s family supported her to break these stereotypes and to live her dream.

After that there was no looking back for Shruti. She trained in Calgary for a couple of years. She held the national record in long track time trials and even broke it herself. Shruti now gazed herself as her opponent. In 2017, she participated in Asian Winter Games in 2017.

In 2018, She tied the knot with a fellow skater Harshal Mundphan. They together have laid the foundation of Pursuit Skating Academy, where they train lads in roller skating and ice skating.

Shruti Kotwal credits her family for pushing her to soar high. They never let her have any lack of support in her pursuit of representing India at the international stage.

“My family is my support system. They are extremely proud of me and encourage me. My mother is my backbone, my father always is like a rock, and my siblings are my biggest cheerleaders, and most of all, my husband is my biggest fan and motivator. This journey would be impossible without my family and their unlimited help and support.” shruti shares with an air of proud.

What lies ahead?

Shruti has now set her eye on qualifying for the Skating World Cup and then to represent India at Winter Olympics 2022. If she manages this, she will make our nation proud. But this is not a piece of cake. After the pandemic, the situations are even worse.

The skating season has started but Shruti has not been able to return to ice, because of the travel restrictions. Also finances now pose a bigger challenge, than they ever did.

“I tried everything to get a sponsor, but didn’t get one. The reason being Indian Mindset towards sports. We don’t understand that it’s not a give and take situation. You give us support and we give medals, it’s not how it works ” said Shruti elaborating the pain of athletes in India.

Now Shruti is supporting herself. Before every skating season, She never knows how the finances will be managed. Till now destiny has always sent someone, who helped her bear the expenses for that season. This year that too seems difficult.
श्रुति कोतवाल

A message from Shruti Kotwal

“Having 138 crore people and 2-3 medals at olympics, explains how efficient our sport ecosystem is. We have to take up a new approach. We have to shape our athletes with long term goals. We need to understand that Olympic medals are not that easy, they demand relentless hard work for 8 to 10 years.” remarks Shruti

“I want to say one thing to fellow Indian youth that don’t fear falling. However tough it is, keep struggling because no matter how dark the night is, a bright sunrise will eventually end it.”

So guys this was the inspiring story of India’s Fastest Ice Skater, Shruti Kotwal. She chose a hardly ventured path and yet made a mark. This is what makes her a ‘Stubborn Warrior’.

We will be back with another tale of zeal and passion, which like Shruti’s, motivate you to work relentlessly hard. Till then

Stay Stubborn, Stay Passionate