A national level skier, a national level football player, a swimmer who has swum Dal Lake, a sketch artist, a taekwondo player, and an Honors student at Delhi University. No, these are not multiple people, this is the story of Sana Afzal Mir, a 23-year-old woman from the Lal bazaar area of Srinagar. She has broken almost all the gender barriers and revolutionized the role of Kashmiri women in sports.
In 2018, Sana completed her secondary education from Delhi Public School, Srinagar and joined Amar Singh College for higher studies but left midway and got admission to St. Stephens College, University of Delhi. Now she is pursuing a bachelor's in English, Urdu literature and philosophy, a combination of subjects she had always dreamt of.
Apart from academics, she believes that co-curricular and extracurricular activities play a vital role in personal development. “It is also important for a student to take a break from their studies and rejuvenate themselves with activities such as sports, art, etc,” she added.
Sana is a national level skier; she recalls her journey about how she started skiing. She said that she began skiing at the tender age of ten during her school tour to Gulmarg. One of her teachers discovered that she was good at controlling and balancing herself, then he encouraged her to join a professional course in skiing.
‘’I completed the basic, intermediate and advanced courses in skiing in three years because these courses are important to compete in a championship. After completing these courses I started participating in district and state championships and did very well in all of them,” she said. She has won many gold and silver medals at the district level.
After faring well in district championships, Sana got selected for nationals. She has played one national in Manali, two nationals in Auli Uttarakhand and two Khelo India competitions in Gulmarg Kashmir. So far she has bagged one gold and one bronze national medal and aims to represent India in skiing. She has also received sponsorships in skiing.
She said winter sports equipment and gear is costly and every time she has to rent the equipment which hinders her practice sessions. She feels that the lack of coaches in Kashmir for winter sports is also a disadvantage for those who want to make a career in it.
Sana said to be a winter sports athlete, “one has to be able to overcome the fear of speed, heights and physical injury.”
“I always feel excited and thrilled while skiing. It is quite overwhelming when one has to come down from a very steep slope but after the first two-three turns does it become an adventure of how well one can do it” she said adding that there is certainly some nervousness during races and competitions but that is natural and can be reduced by more practice.
“With a lot of practice over the years, I have realised that skiing is my passion and I want to continue skiing for the rest of my life so that I can make a career in it,” she added.
Besides skiing, Sana is into football as well. She was in class 9th when she started playing football. In 2015 she captained the J&K women’s football team and has won many tournaments. She has also captained her school football team numerous times.
Sana is also an avid sketch artist, she discovered this talent when one day she picked up a photograph of her cousin and made a similar sketch. Everyone liked the sketch and her friends encouraged her to make sketches and post them on social media. “Initially, I didn't agree because it was my hobby and I used to draw sketches during my free time but after I uploaded my work on Instagram, I received a lot of appreciation and love from people.
“Everyone around me wanted me to draw their sketch. I used to draw sketches free of cost in the beginning but now I have started charging because it requires effort and time, said Sana.
When asked about her inspiration, surprisingly Sana named a personality who does not play the sport she plays. “I am not inspired by any skier or footballer. I hugely admire and idolise Mary Com for her character, determination and grit.”