Indian speed skater Stephen Paul, who moved to the U.S. to train for the Olympics, is hoping to win a berth in the 2018 Olympics.
The speed skater is the first from India to qualify for the Olympic World Cup.
“Our team was invited for a 10-day training camp on ice followed by an ice national championship,” Paul, solely an inline skater up to that point, explained to India-West. “I was progressing very well on ice and I won a national silver medal in the national championship. It gave me a lot of interest to pursue the Olympic dream since roller skating was not an Olympic sport.”
In each of the past four years, the Indian athlete has improved his standing, culminating in a top-five finish in the American Cup.Paul has successfully qualified in mass start, a 16-lap race with no lanes.
“I definitely want to open the Olympic door for Indian athletes,” Paul told India-West, adding his ultimate goal is to go to the Olympics and win a medal. “In 125 years of speed skating as a sport, no Indian has ever made the times to qualify for the world cups. This year, for the first time, there will be Indian representation and I am honored that I could do it.
Kearns: Lap after lap, day after day, Stephen Paul looks up and hopes he’ll soon see the orange, green and white stripes of the Indian flag high above his head.
His dream, born on wheels in his native India and honed on the ice that hosted the world’s best in 2002, is to earn that flag hanging from the rafters by competing at the highest levels of the sport in the 500 and 1,000 meter events and more importantly — becoming the first Indian to skate in an Olympic race.
Paul already has the times to compete in World Cup mass start — an event new to the Games for PyeongChang that features up to 24 skaters competing in a 16-lap race for sprint points — but wants to focus on his preferred events of the 500 and 1,000 meter races.
He wants to be the catalyst for future Indians to take up speedskating careers and believes his country has a deep well of untapped potential that ”can really dominate the world one day.”
Until that day, he’ll look forward to getting that flag hung high above the sheet of ice in Utah that he hopes will propel him into the Olympic history books.
”I want to inspire people. I don‘t want to be the last Indian on ice”, Paul said
KEARNS, Utah — Stephen Paul is the first Speed Skater from India to qualify for the Olympic World Cup, and he trains in Salt Lake city at the Utah Olympic Oval.
Paul began inline skating at the age of eight, but four-and-a-half years ago decided to switch to speed skating in hopes of making it to the Olympics. He chose to train in Salt Lake City due to the success of athletes and programs here, saying Salt Lake has the best ice in the world.
In the past four years, Paul has improved from Top 50, to Top 40, 30, ten, and last year finished in the Top Five of the American Cup (the top three went to the 2014 Olympics for the United States). This year, he has been 100% dedicated to the sport, quitting his job to stay focused, and has been working on his mental health.
Thirty-six athletes will compete at the 2018 Winter Olympics in Speed Skating, all of which must first quality for the World Cup. Paul has successfully qualified in mass start, a 16 lap race with no lanes, but hopes to quality in his two favorite events: the 500 meters and 1000 meters. Currently, Paul is .02 seconds away from qualifying for the 1000 meters, and .26 seconds from the 500 meters.
“If you really see the Olympic results, everybody in the games, the winning and the losing, are a second, or second point two. I just started four and a half years ago, and there are people who are behind me who have been training for ten years.”