India Today profiles India’s young adventure sports enthusiasts

first_imgSome people just can’t be kept indoors. For adventure sports addict Ajeet Bajaj, the outdoor is home, and life is beautiful provided he’s trekking, kayaking or making polar expeditions.For equestrian Vanita Malhotra-who set a new national record in Dressage last month-nothing beats the adrenalin rush she gets every time she,Some people just can’t be kept indoors. For adventure sports addict Ajeet Bajaj, the outdoor is home, and life is beautiful provided he’s trekking, kayaking or making polar expeditions.For equestrian Vanita Malhotra-who set a new national record in Dressage last month-nothing beats the adrenalin rush she gets every time she mounts a horse.SIMPLY DELHI meets the two outdoor junkies as they prepare to scale new heights.Ajeet BajajAjeet Bajaj holds the Indian flag aloft upon reaching the North PoleOn April 26, 2006 (0100 hours, Norway time), a jubilant Ajeet Bajaj put down his skies and hoisted the Tricolour at 90 degrees north latitude. By doing so, he became the first Indian to have skied to the North Pole. While he and his team of four celebrated their victory against the odds (and weather gods), Bajaj called his family on his satellite phone and said, “Ho-ho-ho, this is Santa Claus from the North Pole.” A nickname that’s likely to stick for a bit as he plans to head to the South Pole this Christmas.An extreme sportsman, Bajaj had earlier earned the distinction of being the first Indian to have rafted and kayaked in six continents, including down the daunting Zambezi river in Africa. “Having grown up on stories of explorers like Sir Edmund Hillary, setting foot on North Pole was an overwhelming, yet humbling, experience for me,” he says.Bajaj’s love for the outdoors took root when his father took him trekking to Himachal and Jammu and Kashmir when he was nine. This interest shaped his life with his hobby becoming his profession, leading to the foundation of his adventure sports company, Snow Leopard Adventures in 1990. Snow Leopard’s activities include river rafting on the Ganga, trekking in the Himalayas, cycling on forest trails and rappelling down cliffs.advertisement”Extreme sports need mental strength as much as physical prowess.”Ajeet Bajaj”Extreme sports are as much about mental strength as they are about physical prowess,” says Bajaj, as he talks about the training he underwent for the North Pole expedition. It ran for a week and took place in North Minnesota in the US. All the five members of the team (three Americans, one Swiss and one Indian) trained under extreme conditions.Not only were the worst polar conditions simulated, they even trained for extreme eventualities like falling into and crawling out of frozen lakes. The journey itself began in the second week of April at 78 degrees north latitude at Svalbard, an island made entirely of snow and ice that lies midway between Norway and the North Pole.Talking about the importance of team spirit on an expedition like this, Bajaj says: “It cannot be a single-handed effort. You just cannot make it alone on a polar ice cap for 14 days. All of us in the team were there for each other and, in the process, have become friends for life.”Bajaj, who has won a silver and two bronze medals in international rafting competitions in Switzerland (1987) and Siberia (1989), says he is fortunate to have a family which understands that this is his way of life. His daily regime includes a run, tennis and the gym. And on days when he’s feeling exceptionally adventurous, he cycles to office-a 17-km stretch from his house in Gurgaon’s Garden Estate to his office at Vasant Kunj.Vanita MalhotraVanita Malhotra with Hanoverian Horse Pink Floyd”I can’t imagine life without horses. People ride up to the age of 70 and I hope to be one of them,” declares Vanita Malhotra (26), one of India’s finest dressage riders. Dressage, an Olympic equestrian discipline, is a form of stylised horse riding. Malhotra likes to call it “ballet performed on the horse with rider and horse in harmony.”On November 13, Malhotra won the National Championships at the Prix St George Level in Delhi with an aggregate of 64.62 per cent (the highest percentage ever achieved by any Indian rider). Earlier in the month, she defeated veteran rider Lt Col Sunil Shivdas by six points and also won the FEI World Dressage Challenge, the biggest dressage event in India.”Like most teens, I tried my hand at various sports and extra curricular activities, but by 14 I had decided to stick to riding, a passion I discovered entirely on my own,” says Malhotra who fell in love with horses at the Army Polo Riding Club.”Dressage is like ballet by rider and horse moving in harmony.”Vanita Malhotra”Initially I only did show jumping but in 2001, my friend Kapil Modi, who also happens to be a former national champion in dressage, introduced me to his trainer Major Ahluwalia (a national riding champion who is competing in dressage in the 2006 Asian Games at Doha). So you could say that I found my forte at the age of 21,” she says.advertisementCurrently training for the 2010 Asian Games, she rides her horse Pink Floyd for two hours every morning. “One’s relationship with one’s horse is of vital importance. In fact, the horse is 60 per cent of the deal. I’m lucky that Pink Floyd and I have become the best of friends,” she says, patting the majestic 10-year-old Hanoverian imported from Germany earlier this year.A commerce graduate from Hindu College, Malhotra hopes to study further in order to play a more active role in her family’s Haryana-based export business, Svam Power Plants. But at the end of it all, she says, the race course is where you’re most likely to find her.last_img read more