Every morning, a group of female cyclists wearing protective gears, pedal their way to Boulevard Road. They are exploring the newer field of sports and riding over the scowlof society.
Cycling, which was considered a male sport earlier, has been pursued by valley females for a few years now. One of the reasons as told by the athletes is that during the lockdown imposed due to Covid 19 pandemic, many girls became cautious about fitness and to gain mental and physical wellbeing, what can be better than cycling. However, it doesn’t end here. Some sportspeople apart from doing well in other sports are peddling their way to success in this field as well.
The ultra-marathon runner Insha Wadoo,aged 27, is an active cyclist who keeps on participating in every cycling event. From an overweight teen to becoming a stat athlete, she has got a number of awards and appreciation.
After doing well at the racing events, she decided to take part in cycling races too. “I used to leave home at 4 am alone for practice. On Sundays, I would run 25-30 kms which not only made me a good runner but also helped in becoming a good cyclist. You can’t be a good cyclist unless you are a good runner,” she said.
Starting her cycling career in higher secondary school days, she was presented with a state award in Punjab in the field of athletics and cycling.
“The women cyclists were not seen and often male cyclists were seen on roads. Earlier, a girls with cycles were mocked by the people but a pandemic drove them to come out of their homes for fitness purposes. When many women came out on cycles, it inspired other women and also normalized this thing which initially used to raise eyebrows. The demand for cycles increased and the prices of cycles also got up from the last few years,” she said.
She said that earlier in local cycling events, 10-12 girls would participate but now at least 70-90 girls participate.
“When you pedal, all the worries from your mind fade away. There should be a cycle in every household. It’s a very important thing. With cycling, you can concentrate on your studies better. Many girls took to sports which inspire other girls and parents as well,” she said.
Watching more ladies getting involved in the sports activities, she believes that in the coming future, the number will rise more and hopes for big events to happen here in Kashmir too.
“Many girls are going into mountain cycling and Kashmir being the mountainous region can be good for organizing national and international cycling events. On the suggestion of my apprentices, in future i will open a women's cycling and athletics club which will pay a way to many young female athletes,” she said.
Insha who works as a physical education teacher keeps sharing her knowledge with the younger lot who aspires to be professional cyclists in future.
She said, “During cycling, thighs and back are involved so we do exercises to make them stronger. Sports and education are equally important. We can be successful when we are physically, mentally and socially fit.”
Juggling studies and sports, Zoobiya Tariq of class 10th is a swimmer, runner and cyclist. She has participated in a number of cycling races and has stood winner in many.
Ride Kashmir 2021 and Ride Kashmir 2022, the two cycling events where participants were supposed to peddle from Baramulla to Kamanpost, were exclusively held separately for women and men and she stood first in both.
“The recently held Pedal for peace cycle race was good. I stood third and the race was very professional. We were in a bunch, competing with each other and everyone was enthusiastic to win. I have participated in the cycling national as well and it gave me the same feeling,” she said.
In the national cycling championship, which was held in Haryana, she was a little scared but was more fascinated with the cycles and uniforms of the other participants. “They looked very professional but I ignored everything and concentrated on the race. We should have the same standard of cycling too,” she said.
Talking about the infrastructure she said, “We don’t have enough coaches here but my father guides me a lot. The infrastructure will take time to develop here with more and more cyclists joining the sport. The mindset of most of the people have changed towards cycling. I will also continue it as it’s a good sport,” she said. She is also a national medalist in alpine skiing and has played a national championship in chess.
When Nabila Khan who was raised in Indonesia came back to Kashmir, she didn't find good courses of swimming here. She found a new game, Kaya King and got accepted by the Sports Authority of India for it. Being good at a number of sports, made her have a good hold over cycling.
“I started with swimming and kept on exploring other sports. I have done a lot of cycling tournaments. There are many girls in my cycling group and they are all good cyclists. We learn from each other,” said Nabila, who is a 7th grader.
Being the youngest in the group, she said that people often underestimate her for her young age but her performance and medals always do the talking. “I was about to go for the national championship but had to stay back due to my age. I was 10 back then, the required age criteria was 12. I have my eye on the goals,” she said.
She leaves no stone unturned to prove that she can do a lot more in her age. “I practice daily at Nehru Park for the next nationals in Kaya King. I would wake up at 5 a.m. to go cycling. I manage all the sports activities,” she added.
When Yumna Parvez stood 6th in one cycle racing, she realized that it's not easy and she would work hard and be the best.
A student of 7th class, Yumna got inspired by the other girls cycling and in 2021, started pursuing the sport seriously. “Ever since, I have always been second or third in the cycle races. I work hard to be on top. I have been improving my performance and this is what I want to do in future. I want to be a cyclist,” she said.
She is a runner as well as skater but focuses on cycling more on the suggestion of her father.
“Before my school started, I used to go for practice early in the morning and would feel good all day. Currently, there are many girls who practice and I feel happy when I see them practicing. It’s better to come out and do something productive, rather than being at home and doing nothing. Sports is a good thing to pursue,” she said.
She highly takes interest in Mountain cycling and is the only girl in her group of Kashmir Mountain Biking Association (KMBA).
She said, “My parents and coach support me. Mountain cycling is challenging and there are many people who have opted for mountain cycling. We not only take it as sport but a way to stay fit and connect ourselves with nature.”