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Women skaters slide into rinks of Kashmir

Post by Yaqoob Ali on Sunday, October 30, 2022

First slide
When mosques are resonating with afternoon call to prayers, a group of enthusiastic youngsters, with skates in their hands, gather at Redipora rink in downtown area of Khanyar near the shrine of Dastigeer Sahib in Srinagar. 
Children, preteens and teenagers, some of them accompanied by their parents, make this place alive in the otherwise October evenings.  What makes the gathering more pronounced is an overwhelming number of girls and young women skating the concrete rink- giving flight to their ambitions.
Wafa Tariq comes all the way from HMT Srinagar to reach the heart of the old city, goes for a run in the ground to warm up her body, and puts on her skates. A few minutes later, Coach M. Ashraf Dijoo, enters the premises and directs the group to make 50 rounds of speed skating, along with him.
Nearly, half an hour later, coach Dijoo conducts races among the trainees. Then, he conducts matches between the same genders for one and a half hours, before calling off the session for the day.
"I go through this routine regularly to make my dreams come true. I am present captain of the J&K Rollball and Roller skating team," says the 19 yr old, Wafa who is currently pursuing a chartered accountant course from the Indian Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI).
She started Rollball skating at a very young age in 2014 when she was barely 12, since then she has been achieving milestones one after another.
She claims she was awarded the best skater award in 2020. And in roller skating, she has won the gold medal in the Kashmir roll ball district championship recently held at Rajbagh in July 2022 and also won gold in the Srinagar district roller sports championship held at Radpora in 2021.
Similarly, she has bagged a gold medal in 1st Shehr e Khas at Radpora rink in 2020, gold in the roller skating championship organized by Jammu Kashmir state sports council in 2020,1st place [winner] in the district championship held by the roll ball association held at Jammu in 2019 and national participation in 63rd national of roll ball championship held at Chhattisgarh in 2017-2018.
"In Ice skating, I have won the gold medal in speed skating at 1st Khelo India in 2020, 1st position in figure skating in the snow carnival event held by J&K tourism in 2017, and 1st place in speed skating in snow carnival held by J&K tourism held at Gulmarg in 2017," she claims.
Similarly, Shzain Wani, a class 11 student at Mallinson Girls School developed her interest in roller skating when she was just eight years old.
“I officially started taking part in competitions at the age of 11 and played her first ever competition at an inter-school roller skating competition held at Doon International School in 2007 where I bagged the third position,” she said.
Further, from the year onwards under the guidance and coaching of coach Dijoo, she started frequently taking part in competitions.
“After the construction of the roller skating rink at Radpora Khanyar, we regularly started practicing there. We had roller skating camps and championships for every age group there. I took part in several championships held there,” she says.
She says, in ice skating she played nationals in 2019 after which she took part in Khelo India Nationals held in Gulmarg in 2020 and 2022.She bagged a silver medal in speed skating in 2020. “I am also looking forward to taking part in further competitions and nationals,” she says.
Shzain also says that she was inspired by CoachDijoo, who had organized a training cum camping program at Doon International School where she was a student. She found roll ball skating interesting, unique, and different from the other sports so decided to join the coaching courses.
“Soon after Dijoo sir conducted a coaching camp in our school, I found roll ball, roller skating, so I started to learn the sports,” she says.
She says she has been doing practice regularly for sports at Redipora Rink for around three hours religiously.
“Initially, I was criticized by relatives citing that being a girl, exposure to the outside valley put me in trouble, but as soon as I started bagging medals for J&K, the critics turned into appreciators,” she says.
She believes parents' support plays a pivotal role in honing the sports skill of youngsters.“Despite criticism, my parents kept supporting me. Without their support I would not have been standing where I am right now,” she says, and added, “It is because of their support I made it through thick and thin."
She says that she initially was an introvert, but roll ball skating made her an extrovert, besides improving her health.
She credits her success to coach Dijoo who made sure that no stone is left unturned to train her, who has been her guiding force in bagging medals in several inter-district, inter-state, and national level competitions.
Recalling an incident she says that she got once injured, causing dislocation of the shoulder joint.“The injury took me one month to recover. But, that did not let me down as the passion for the sport had multiplied,” she says.
“The sport helped me in overcoming various phobias, especially Hodophobia and Agoraphobia, and boosted confidence in me as I traveled to different destinations across the valley and country for participation in various events,” she says.
She says there is huge potential in Kashmiri youths for skating and its associated sister games.“Our youth are very talented and they need to be provided with ample opportunities and platforms to showcase talent. Parents must support their wards to learn any game of their interest,” she says.
She adds the sport has many health benefits, keeps one physically fit, and mentally alert, and helps in decision-making.
She says there are only 15 girls playing in the U19 category along with her as the game is known by the lesser population as compared to other sports. But, since the sports authorities increased the number of rinks now more kids are coming into this sport.
Secretary Skateboard and Roller Ball Association J&K, M. Ashraf Dijoo said that for the past eight years besides boys, more and more girls are coming into this sport.
“We have around 10 girls who competed in national level competitions among which five girls are national level medalists and hope that in upcoming national level competitions,the daughters of soil will bring laurels home by bagging medals and emerging victorious,” he added.
He said that around 50-60 girls are visiting the skating rink from different districts of Kashmir.“Though the number was less earlier, since we involved Downtown in the sport, the number increased to around 60,” he said, adding “Our focus is to train youngsters who would move forward in the sport as they are the future of the valley in the sport .”
He said, currently under his supervision children from age groups starting from four to nineteen are being trained in the sport. “These kids are being provided free training,” he said, adding that these children have a lot of potential and are also prepared for national-level competitions.
He says kids must not come under any pressure, owing to various things including studies, rather they should join the sport as it eases out mental stress, and makes one mentally strong.

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