Kayaking and canoeing will attract more young people in the years to come: water sports star Bilquis Mir

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As Jammu and Kashmir’s first female international kayaker and international canoe-kayak judge, Bilquis Mir, 34, is one of the pioneers of water sports in the state and the country. Mir, who represented India at the ICF Sprint World Cup in Hungary in 2009, coached Indian canoe teams from 2010 to 2015, and served as a judge at the 2018 Asian Games, in addition to ‘be Director of Water Sports, Jammu and Kashmir Water Sports Council.

Mir, who is president, Canoe Slalom, Indian Kayaking and Canoeing Association, was in Chandigarh as the association announced Chandigarh is hosting next year’s Asian Dragon Boat Championship and Himachal Pradesh will host the canoe sprint nationals next month in Bilaspur.

The former international player believes kayaking and canoeing will generate more interest among Indian youth in the years to come.

“When it comes to Olympic sports, canoeing remains the fifth sport in terms of medals offered with 12 canoe sprint events, four canoe slalom events at the Tokyo Olympics and nine events at the Tokyo Paralympic Games. With Asian countries like Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan also emerging as strong nations, I think India can also thrive in sports in the years to come.
Recently we saw Prachi Yadav become the first Indian paracanoe player to compete in the Tokyo Paralympics and reach the semi-finals. We have seen the recent push from the central government in announcing the Water Sports Center of Excellence in Srinagar. Such initiatives will attract more young people to sport and with the proper planning and infrastructure we too can dream of qualifying for the Olympics and winning medals, ”Mir told The Indian Express.

Mir, who started swimming at the Nehru Park Water Sports Center in Srinagar in the late 1990s, started kayaking a year later at the center. The coming years would see Mir competing in K1 500m events nationally and internationally and she would reach the semi-finals of the ICF Sprint World Cup in Hungary. The Jammu and Kashmir player also competed in the Asian Kayak Championship in Iran and will later coach the Indian kayak and canoe teams from 2010 to 2015. In 2010, Mir also passed the international judge’s test of the ICF and would officiate in international tournaments.

“When I started playing sports, a lot of people laughed or made fun of me or my family. Swimming or water sports was still a taboo and I still remember how people taunted me for wearing a swimsuit for kayaking events. I am happy to have been able to be a role model for young people as well as for emerging players in Jammu and Kashmir as well as other states. Competing in the ICF World Cup in Hungary remains my greatest achievement, but coaching the Indian team from 2010 to 2015 has also helped me grow as an individual. At Dal Lake Water Sports Center, we have trained over 100 players who have won medals at national medals and seeing them succeed motivates me, ”she said.


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