Young girls from Kashmir are taking up Alpine skiing, a sport which is considered to be a male bastion.
They have not only bagged laurels nationally, but internationally too.
The junior skier girls of the Under-19 group have shone in many events and are also inspiring young girls to take up the sport.
Syed Haniya Zehra, a ski-lover, took up the sport when she was in fourth standard. Her dream of becoming a known skier changed into reality when she was selected for the Asian Games Junior Winter Championship.
It was her first opportunity to show her talent at an intentional level. In the 13th Asian Junior SKI Championship, which was held at Iran, there were three participants from Kashmir and, Zehra was the only girl among them.
Sharing her experience, Zehra said:
“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.”
The 18-year old was left disappointed when she wasn’t able to get any position for the country. She says, “It feels sad when one does not meet the expectations. The skiers here do not have proper knowledge of this game.”
Another skier, Sabiya Nabi, first sloped down the baby slope when she was just nine-year-old. With the support from her parents, she was able to pursue the sport .
The 17-year-old has completed her skiing courses and aims to win gold medal in the Winter Olympics. “The journey has been exciting and thrilling. I want to participate in the winter Olympics someday and win there,” she said.
Hailing from North Kashmir, she has won six medals in many local and international events.
Sabiya Nabi has also made into BBC’s ‘Hundred Impressive Women’ list. Not only that, she has also become the first sports person from the state to be selected for the list.
The list features several well known Indian women athletes including Sania Mirza, Saina Nehwal, and Mary Kom.
Abida Nabi, another skier from the valley, has won 11 medals in many national and international events.
The young girl gives full credit to her father for her success. Her father has trained her for almost a decade.
Abida feels that more and more girls should take up skiing but, is also concerned about the lack of infrastructure for the sport here. She believes if things improve, more and more girls will join the sport.
Another passionate skier, Zehva Gulzar, won silver medal in the Gulmarg Cup.
Zehwa, who hails from Srinagar, said, “I want to participate in the winter Olympics and represent India in Alpine skiing.”
Manzoor Ahmad Ladakhi, a well-known ski trainer, says, “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. The government needs to have a serious look into this matter.”