Updated: September 19, 2021 10:52:32 am
As the first international woman kayaker and an international judge in canoeing from Jammu & Kashmir, 34-year-old Bilquis Mir is one of the pioneers of water sports in the state as well as the country. Mir, who represented India in the ICF Sprint World Cup in Hungary in 2009, coached the Indian canoe teams from 2010 to 2015, and officiated as a judge in the 2018 Asian Games, apart from being the director, water sports, Jammu and Kashmir Water Sports Council.
Mir, who is chairman, Canoe Slalom, Indian Kayaking and Canoeing Association, was in Chandigarh as the association announced Chandigarh as the host for next year’s Asian Dragon Boat Championship and Himachal Pradesh hosting next month’s canoe sprint nationals at Bilaspur.
The former international player believes that kayaking and canoeing will attract more interest among the Indian youth in coming years.
“When we talk of Olympic sports, canoeing remains the fifth largest sport in terms of medals offered with 12 events in canoe sprint, four events in canoe slalom at Tokyo Olympics and nine events in Tokyo Paralympics. With Asian countries like Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan too emerging as strong nations, I believe India can also grow in the sport in future years.
Recently we saw Prachi Yadav become the first India para canoe player to compete in Tokyo Paralympics and reaching semi-finals. We have seen the recent push by the central government in announcing the Centre of Excellence in Water Sports at Srinagar. Such initiatives will attract more youth to the sport and with the right planning and infrastructure, we too can dream of qualifying for Olympics and win medals,” Mir told The Indian Express.
Mir, who started swimming at the Nehru Park Water Sports Centre in Srinagar in the late 1990s, would start kayaking one year later at the centre. The coming years would see Mir compete in K1 500 m events at the national as well as international level and she would reach the semi-finals in the ICF Sprint Racing World Cup in Hungary. The Jammu & Kashmir player also competed in the Asian Kayaking Championship in Iran and would later coach the Indian kayaking and canoeing teams from 2010 to 2015. In 2010, Mir also passed the international judge test by ICF and would officiate in international tournaments.
“When I started the sport, a lot of people would laugh or taunt me or my family. Swimming or water sport was still a taboo and I still remember how people taunted me for wearing a swimming costume for the kayak events. I am glad I could be a role model for the youngsters as well emerging players from the Jammu & Kashmir as well other states. To compete in ICF World Cup in Hungary remains my biggest achievement but coaching the Indian team from 2010 to 2015 also helped me grow as an individual. At the water sports centre at Dal Lake, we have trained more than 100 players who have won medals at national medals and seeing them achieve success motivates me,” she said.
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