KIWG: Skaters put Maharashtra on top; Army denies ITBP ice-hockey double
The first-ever Khelo India Winter Games in Ladakh came to a memorable finish with thousands watching the ice-hockey finals at the NDS sports complex
Leh, Feb. 06: Maharashtra finished on top of the medal standings as the first part of the Khelo India Winter Games 2024 came to a rapturous finish at the Nawang Dorjay Stobdan Sports Complex in Leh on Tuesday.
Maharashtra won 20 skating medals that included six golds. Karnataka also finished with six golds but their total count of eight as against Maharashtra’s 20, relegated them to the Number 2 position in the standings.
Hosts Ladakh, who won a pair of historic Khelo India golds in speed skating, finished third with a combined haul of 13 medals. The UT of Ladakh hosted the Khelo India Winter Games for the first time. Leh hosted two sports – ice hockey and speed skating.
Part 2 of KIWG has been scheduled in Gulmarg, Jammu & Kashmir from February 21-25. Gulmarg will stage four sports.
On a sunny day in Leh, all roads led to the NDS sports complex. The Khelo India Winter Games 2024, which began on February 2, saw a memorable finish with more than 3,000 vociferous fans braving icy conditions to witness the two ice-hockey finals on Tuesday.
Army denied ITBP a double. While Army won the men’s title 3-1 after a shootout, ITBP won the women’s title taming hosts Ladakh 4-0. Ice hockey in India has generally been dominated by ITBP and Army teams and it was a dream final on Tuesday.
Army and ITBP have shared most of the national and Khelo India Winter Games titles between them. This rivalry was palpable at NDS with teams demonstrating both their skills and physical prowess at an altitude of 11,562 feet.
ITBP came as the defending Khelo India champions. In the semifinals on Monday, Army scored a whopping 10-2 victory against Himachal Pradesh. ITBP, on the contrary, had a tougher semifinal against Ladakh. Although they won 4-0, it was contest marred by a lot of physical play. In a well-contested final, the first period ended 0-0.
Army opened the scoring in the ninth minute of the second period through Tsewang Dorjay. Mohammed Ismail equalised for ITBP soon after. At the end of the third period, the score stood 1-1. Two periods of extra time did not produce a result. In the shootout, Army scored twice to settle the issue.
“Our rivalry with the ITBP has been going on for a long time, and today’s match was the hardest in the series. We knew it would be exciting, but we were surprised by the huge crowd and the support from the public. It reminded us that winning on our home turf is really something special. We know we could have played better, but we’re still happy that we came out on top in the end,” said Stanzin Phandey, the Army team captain.
This is the first time that women’s ice-hockey was included into the Khelo India Winter Games programme. For the ITBP girls, winning the gold in Ladakh’s home ground was a sweet experience. The two teams had met in the title round of the nationals in Kaza, Himachal Pradesh in January this year. ITBP won the title. Himachal Pradesh and Telangana were the other two teams at KIWG 2024.
ITBP captain Tashi Dolker said: “It feels like a historic moment to be the first women’s champions at the Khelo India Winter Games 2024. This is a very important win for us as in the Kaza nationals we won via a shootout. This win is thus far more satisfying.”
The skating competition ended late on Monday. All eyes were on professional skater Shruti Kotwal of Maharashtra. The 32-year-old speed skater, who trains and competes in the US, participated in the Khelo India Winter Games for the first time and did not disappoint. It was a sweet homecoming after 15 years. At the frozen Gupuks Pond, surrounded by the Indus River and a snow-clad Zanskar range, a slightly tentative Shruti comfortably won both the long tracks events (1000 and 500 m) in the above-17 years’ category with a timing of 1:00.56 seconds and 1:49.25 seconds, respectively.
The difference in timings between the winner and the others in the 1000 m race was very conspicuous. Shruti holds the national record in the 500m with a timing of 41.97 seconds.
This edition of the KIWG 2024 has been historic for Ladakh. After the hosts won the women’s short track 1600m relay gold, the long track skaters — Padma Angmo, Insha Fatima and Tasnia Shamim (Ladakh) did a commendable 1-2-3 in the under-17 1000 metres race at Gupuks.
Maharashtra added three long-track skating golds to catch with Karnataka’s six and overtake them on cumulative count.