Gul Mustufa Dev has the credit of being India’s first Winter Olympian. In 1988, Gul brought glories to Kashmir and his family by participating in Winter Olympics in Calgary, Canada, Abid Rashid Baba reports.
Gul Mustufa Dev completed his schooling from the oldest missionary school of the valley, Tyndale Biscoe School. “I was a multi-talented boy in my
school days,” he said with a smiling face. “I have participated in a myriad of sporting events like Pole Vault, High Jump, Long Jump, Swimming and Hurdles at junior level,” Gul told Kashmir Life.
Gul’s brother used to ski in Gulmarg and his skiing gear never failed to fascinate Gul. It was in 1978 when Dev went to Gulmarg through the department of Youth Services and Sports, J&K, for a basic course in skiing. “I completed my basic course and later on intermediate and advanced course in skiing too,” said Gul. His father, Habibullah Dev, was a top football goalkeeper of the valley who the then Maharja, Hari Singh had nicknamed as “Habib Paunz.”
During the initial stages of his career, Gul was trained by many coaches like Mr Vinay Bajwa, KK Sharma and Freidie Nedu but it was Anna, a Swedish skiing racer, who taught him the nuances of the game. “I owe a lot to my coaches,” he said, adding that Anna had coached him for the three categories of races – Giant Slalom, Slalom and Downhill skiing.
In National Skiing Competition held in 1986, Gul won Gold Medal in ‘Giant Slalom’ and Bronze in ‘Slalom’ and a Bronze in Downhill ski style as well. After his flawless performance in the event, Winter Games Federation of India (WGFI) selected him for the Indian squad to play in the first ever Winter Asian Games which were held at Sapporro, Japan from March 01 – 08 in the same year.
Recalling the thrilling experiences of Winter Olympic Safari, Gul told Kashmir Life that it was something like a dream come true for him. In 1988, trails were
held by Indian Olympic Association (IOA) & WGFI for selecting a team for 15th Winter Olympics scheduled at Calgary, Canada. “I secured the first position and I was selected for Olympic Games,” Gul recalled with profound nostalgia.
A resident of Jammu and Kashmir’s summer capital, Srinagar, Gul said that it was for the first time India had participated in the Olympic Games and to be part of that contingent was something he is still proud of. “I still cherish those moments. I secured 68th position in this event,” Gul said.
In 2008, Indian Olympic Association and Winter Games Federation of India choose Gul Mustufa Dev to bring Winter Games’ flame from Delhi via Dehradun, Shimla and Jammu to Gulmarg. “To light the flame for the games was even more memorable,” recalls Gul with pride and delight.
Being the first and the only Olympian from the state, the state government felicitated Gul with Sheri-i-Kashmir Medal. In 2011, Gul received the ‘Olympian Award’ from Nawang Rigzin Jora, the state’s tourism minister. He also received an award for outstanding contribution in the field of sports by Governer NN Vohra.
“I also got a job in Youth Services and Sports as a skiing instructor and currently I am Chief Skiing Instructor. Gul told Kashmir Life. He has also coached Indian skiing team for the 14th Junior Asian Games held at China. “Swiss and French
skiing federations offered me to coach their players but I didn’t accept the lucrative offers,” he said adding that there was no dearth of talent in our state and that he wanted to groom the young talent under his guidance.
“Interest shown by upcoming players in the game is great and Kashmir Valley provides the best turfs & slopes for skiing in the whole world,” said Gul. He believes that skiing as a sport is adventurous and difficult as well. “It is played at high altitudes and for that you need fitness of high order,” he said
Gul was about to leave to Gulmarg where it was snowing to coach players. He had a smile on his face and a piece of advice for players: “If you want to make career out of skiing, hard work is the key. Try to enjoy the sport and remain focused”, Gul said.