For the past few decades Kashmir has produced many international players from varied disciplines like football, cricket, martial arts, snow skiing, adventure sports, water sport etc.
Sports activities did not confine to physically fit persons but specially abled persons or the persons with disabilities have also proved their mettle at different national and international arenas.
One such young star is 24-year-old Ishrat Akhtar, the international wheelchair basketball player from Bangdara area in north Kashmir’s Baramulla district.
She says , she is the first woman to represent India at the international level for the wheelchair basketball tournament.
Sharing the ordeal of an accident that led her wheelchair-bound for the rest of her life,the young girl says that in 2016 she fell from the second floor of a building causing damage to her spinal cord.
“Soon I was taken to the hospital in Baramulla and later was referred to a hospital in Srinagar, three days later I underwent surgery,” she says.
After getting discharged from the hospital, she did not know what had happened to her.“After six months there was no improvement in my condition and was left bedridden. My parents would feed me,” she says.
Akhtar gets a call for a camp held in the district she belonged where they were providing wheelchairs to specially-abled people.“My sister insisted and sent me to a camp where the doctor did my physical checkup, and asked me to come to the hospital for training in using a wheelchair,” she said.
Meanwhile, she came across some wheelchair basketball players, and after seeking their consent to join them, they allowed her to play.
“I was told that the Wheelchair Basketball Federation of India is conducting trials in Srinagar and a national-level team would be selected for Wheelchair Basketball,” she said.
“I went to Voluntary Medicare Society Srinagar, played there with boys and girls like me and eventually got selected at the National level,” she says, adding that basketball played a role of therapy for her.
In 2018, she played her first national and continuing this routine, she played second national in 2019 at Mohali, representing Kashmir. In the same year, she was selected to represent India at the Asia-Oceania Wheelchair Basketball Championship in Thailand.
"In Thailand, our team played against Iran, China, Thailand, Cambodia, Malaysia and Afghanistan", she added.
Akhtar was recently selected to represent India in the international wheelchair basketball tournament to be held at Jaypee Sports Complex Noida, Delhi from November 5 to November 11, 2022.
The first international invitational Wheelchair Basketball tournament will be organized by the Wheelchair Basketball Federation of India (WBFI), in collaboration with the International Committee of Red Cross.
She said that this is the second time that she has been selected for any international event. The national camp for the selection of players was organized for the first time in Kashmir. And the international wheelchair basketball tournament is being hosted for the first time by India as well.
Athletes from 16 countries will take part in this mega event including Cambodia, Malaysia, Thailand, China, Iran, Afghanistan, India, etc.
“I have been working hard for this event and it is a proud moment for me that I have been selected a second time to represent India at the international arena,” she said, adding that to make a place among 12 selected players in itself is a big achievement for her.
She added this year they have the best team ever to represent the country in this championship. “As the event is being hosted by India, I am confident that the team will bring laurels to the country,” she asserted.