In spite of facing challenges like lack of infrastructure support and encouragement from the government, these young girls from Kashmir are shining in the male-dominated sport of Alpine skiing, and bagging laurels nationally as well as internationally! Read along to know how they are doing it, and about their dreams and aspirations.
Young Kashmiri girls, who have now excelled in many sports of Kashmir, have added another feather to their cap as many of them are now earning laurels in alpine skiing too.
The junior skier girls of the Under-19 group have shone in many of the events that have taken place at national and international levels. Bringing medals back to their home, many of these students have come a long way. They are also inspiring a number of young girls from the valley, who are now showing a keen interest in skiing, which once was a male dominated sport in Kashmir.
Syed Haniya Zehra, has been skiing the mountains of Gulmarg since she was in class 4. Having been trained by Manzoor Ahmed Ladakhi, getting selected in the Asian Games junior winter championship was a dream come true for her. It was the first time that she got an opportunity to display her talent at an international level.
Recently the 13th Asian Junior Ski Championships, 2014 were held in Dizin, Iran where three participants from Kashmir were selected, including the only girl skier Syed Haniya.
“I was pretty excited when I got selected for the event. Then the only goal in my mind was to make my country proud. But, when we reached there we had to face many problems. First of all the ski equipment that had been given to us from our counter was not up-to-date and we had to rent a new one. These small things may discourage one’s spirit as the championship was about to start and we had to practice with new gear,” says Haniya.
This 18-year old girl feels disappointed that they were not able to get any position for their country. “It feels sad when one does not meet the expectations. The skiers here do not have proper knowledge of this game,” she says.
In 2009, Haniya had participated in alpine skiing at Pyoengchang, South Korea where she won the gold and wrote a new chapter in the history of sports in Kashmir. Haniya says that Gulmarg has the best quality of snow and slopes, but the development facilities are almost non-existent.
“In Gulmarg, we have got the powdered soft snow which is better than other places, but Gulmarg lacks a number a things like adequate lifts,” says Haniya.
Haniya attributes her success to her coach Manzoor Ahmad Ladakhi. “If today I am so good in the sports it is only because of my coach who has been training me for more than 10 years now. He has helped polish my skills all the way,” says the young skier.
Sabiya Nabi, 17, had her parents support from the beginning to join this game. Sabiya was 9 years old when she first sloped down the baby slope, helped by her father. She has done all the three skiing courses through youth services and sports.
Sabiya says,“The journey till now has been exciting but my dream does not stop here. I want to participate in the winter Olympics someday and win there.”
Sabiya, who hails from Tangmarg, has won six medals till now at many local and national events. As a child she had gone to Gulmarg with her father and, on watching a foreign female skier, had decided that that was what she also wanted to do.
Another young skier from the valley, Abida Nabi from Srinagar, has been tallying medals at almost all the events she has participated in till now. Abida has so far won 11 medals in the under-19 championships at the local as well as the national level.
Abida attributes her success to her father who has trained her for almost 10 years now. She feels that more and more girls should take up this sport. Abida says that a lot of things need to be improved in the valley so that more girls would come up and join this sport.
“We don’t have a racing culture here, and also, we don’t have a proper knowledge of this sport. The government should come forward and make the girls aware of this. Unfortunately, we never get a word of encouragement from the government,” Abida says.
Zehva Gulzar from Srinagar won silver in the Gulmarg Cup when she was in class 9. Zehwa is also a part of the under-19 junior skiers and has so far won a silver in nationals and a bronze in the state championship. Aged 17, Zehwa says that she has a dream to participate in the winter Olympics and represent India in alpine skiing.
“I have a passion for skiing, though studies always come first for me. I will continue to ski and win for my state in the future,” she says.
Manzoor Ahmad Ladakhi, who has been imparting training to these students for more than 10 years now, says,
“We have a lot of talent among the girls in Kashmir and the only thing that needs to be taken in view is that the government should be supportive. Encouragement is key for every player to be successful, but the government does not realise this. The sportspersons have to suffer as the government does not give them any remuneration, travel expenses or appreciation. If things go on like this, and meritorious players are not supported the way they should be, then the future of this sport is bleak in the valley.”
Manzoor adds that, “I have been training a lot of girls from the valley and they are phenomenal and perform excellently. The government just needs to keep the equipment and other facilities up-to-date so that they can excel. Recently, in Iran, our participant’s equipment was rejected as it was not up-to-date. The government needs to have a serious look into this matter.”
We do hope the Indian government is listening!
With a growing pile of medals, and examples of good sportsmanship to admire, Kashmir has every right to be proud.