The trio of Dhanush Babu, Vikram Ingale and Nikhilesh Tabhane have won India’s first ever senior international roller skating medal, by securing the bronze medal in the 3000m team relay event in Lishui. The final was contested amongst five teams, with South Korea winning the gold, China finishing second and India narrowly pipping Chinese Taipei to the third position. Iran and Indonesia completed the finals lineup, finishing fourth and fifth respectively.

This is the first time in India’s two decade competitive roller skating history, that a medal has been secured in a racing event. In 2010, Arjuna Awardee Anup Kumar Yama secured two bronze medals in the Artistic roller skating event, which is aesthetically different from the racing tournaments.

Speaking exclusively from China, the team’s youngest and fastest member Dhanush Babu said, “This is hands down the biggest achievement in roller speed skating history for India. We have worked day and night to achieve this goal and it feels great. For me personally, this is my first year of senior level competition and I managed to clock the fastest time at the nationals as well. So it’s been a fruitful 2016. We only hope that this medal is going to boost the sport’s popularity back home.”

The top six skaters from the nationals held in Vizag earlier this year were shortlisted to represent the national. Despite being the cream of the crop in the country, the skaters have to self-fund their international trips. Dhanush added, “We pay to participate in this events from our own pocket. The sport in itself is extremely popular at the school and college level, however, it has never transitioned to the competitive stage yet. I’m a full-time skater and I have no other avenue for income, but that really doesn’t matter because I love what I’m doing. I hope this victory raises the eyebrows of the Sports Ministry and administration as we attend only a handful of international events in a year.”

Heading into the last 1000m, India was languishing in fourth spot, but a quick burst of speed by Dhanush saw him cross the line, ahead of his opponent from Chinese Taipei. Dhanush is currently the fastest speed skater in India with a timing of 25.14 seconds in the 300m sprint. He is currently coached by his father Balaji Babu. He said, “This win just changes the mindset of everybody back home. We have so many young skaters, who end up leaving the sport due to educational pressure. They can now use this as an example to set future goals. My father told me that even if I had to be taken out on a wheel-chair, it didn’t matter, what mattered was winning that medal at any cost. If you don’t win all that training won’t even matter.”

The team will now prepare for the National Championships to be held in January.