Shruti Kotwal started speed roller skating as a pastime at the age of seven. Her passion led to her becoming a national-level gold medallist. However, a lack of opportunities propelled her towards the similar, yet more challenging sport of ice skating. A scholarship from the International Skating Union (ISU) took her to Germany, where she trained under Canadian speed skater Jeremy Wotherspoon. “Since India did not have a well-structured ice arena, I moved to Canada for my training. I trained for four to five seasons there,” says the country’s first professional female ice skater. At the 2011 South Asian Winter Games, she won three gold medals in the 500m, 1,000m and 1,500m categories. In 2014, she shaved close to three seconds off her own national record at the Long Track Time Trials an annual speed skating event held at the Olympic Oval in Calgary. Shruti and her husband started a skating academy which includes roller skating and ice skating , Pursuit Skating Academy, in 2010, in her hometown of Pune, Maharashtra. They have a roller skating rink of their own and need to travel for an ice rink. She recently featured in ‘HERoic’, a Canadian documentary web series, directed by Nicole Murphy that premiered in Calgary. Needless to say, we’re in awe of Shruti and LBO’s Anam Khan just had to catch up with her for a chat on her incredible journey so far.
You’ve been speed ice skating roughly for 10 years now. Tell us what motivates you along your career path?
The first person that comes to my mind is my mom because she’s been my pillar throughout the journey. Even when I was hesitant to leave my home, she pushed me to live my dreams. Similarly, my father – he woke me up every morning for training. And my husband Harshal Mundphan, being a skater himself, understands and supports me endlessly. My ultimate goal, the Winter Olympics, motivates me to work harder.
What has been one of your proudest moments?
To many this may not sound like a proud moment, but for me I couldn’t have [had] a better one. I challenged my cold feet at the South Asian [Winter Games] championship in 2011], [it] being my first competition. All the Asian countries were a part of it and it was considered an easy competition. But for me, no competition is small and I have to give it my best. I received three gold medals in the competition and from then I knew there was no turning back.
Being an ice skater, how do you keep warm yet physically light?
I honestly hate winters and train only for the love of the sport. I don’t overdo it with layers; instead I only wear a speedsuit and prepare myself mentally for the cold. A good warm up with the right amount of rest prepares you best for the race.
We are stoked about you breaking your own national record at the Long Track Time Trials in Calgary. How crazy has the journey been?
It’s been a crazy journey and being the only Indian (also known as the brown girl amongst the whites) was a proud feeling. About my national record, I myself was stoked about holding it and I believe it is only the beginning and I have to keep challenging my own record to reach the Winter Olympics.
Do you face gender stereotypes in your line of work? How do you tackle it?
People in India are still come from a cultural background where men and women are considered unequal. Women in the same journey are proving them wrong. I’m immensely proud to be a live example of [how] women should be professional athletes and not limit themselves to just be fitness enthusiasts .
Any words of inspiration for young skaters?
Train smarter and not harder. Don’t do donkey work as it’s about quality rather than quantity. Don’t do 100 laps without knowing how to do them rather do 10 laps but perfect. My next step is preparing for the Winter Olympics.