Bilquees of Canoeing

Success doesn’t come an easy way, Bilquees Mir, too had to traverse a treacherous path to realize her dreams, ABID RASHID BABA reports on the internationally acclaimed canoeing player and  Coach.

Gone are the days when four walls of kitchen would prevent women in Kashmir from venturing out to pursue their dreams. Even though women folk in Kashmir started quite early in academics, however off late, our girls are posing a tough challenge to boys in the world of sports, a traditionally male preserve. Deep desire to excel, in activities which require strong will, courage and perseverance mark the psyche of Kashmiri girl Bilquees Mir, an internationally acknowledged canoeing player and referee.

The sport of Canoeing is comparatively new to Kashmir. Not many people know what the game is all about, leaving aside, the knowledge and skill to play it. Bilquees had the courage to choose this game and strive hard to make her mark. At present she is known as a quality international player and coach. She has earned herself a name among the sports fraternity of the state as well as India with a series of achievements to her credit. About her achievements she said, “I am the first woman from the state to have represented India as a player in a global event, besides now being a coach for both senior and national teams.”

Success doesn’t come an easy way, and Bilquees too had to traverse a treacherous path to realize his dreams. “In the beginning of my career my relatives would dissuade me and tried to wean me away from the sport. There was no encouragement or financial help from any sports body either.”

Recalling her struggle against the female stereotype prevalent in our society, Bilquees remarked “I was born at a wrong place”.

Her tryst with the sport of canoeing started in 1998, when she accompanied one of her classmates in S.A modern school to Dal Lake where a canoeing and kayaking event was being held. It was love at first sight and then and there Bilquees decided to make her career in canoeing.

Her first attempt didn’t turn out to be the way as she would have expected. While recalling the scene she said, “The boat capsized and all my clothes were wet, and for days the event kept reverberating in my mind.

Her maiden failure injected a new resolve in her ambitions. “I stated to learn the nuances of the game slowly and steadily under my first coach, Umer Rafiq.” recalled Bilquis

In the initial stages of her sports career, Bilquees’s only support was her mother. “Nobody came to my support when I started to learn the game. All turned away from me. But it was my mother who played my mentor. She was hopeful that one day I will reach to the zenith, “She said, with an emotional voice.

Luckily, however, on the training side, she had the support of skilled hands. In the beginning, she was trained by Umer Rafiq a local coach, before Sanjay Benewal a national level expert upgraded her skills further. “I learnt from many players but my success to both of them”, remarked Bilquees. She also had the honour of receiving coaching from former World Champion Attila Szabor

As lady luck started smiling over her, so did her family and friends. Those who would ridicule her back home started owning her. “When my hard work stated to translate into medals, my family friends and infact the whole Valley started feeling proud about my success.” said Bliquees

With several honours at the state and national levels, Bilquees made her International debut in 2009 in world championship held at Szeged Hungary.  As of now she is an instructor with youth services and sports and is busy in coaching budding players of canoeing ang kayaking. To the credit of her coaching career, Bilquees successfully pursued an international coaching diploma at Semmelweis University at Budapest Hungary

Bilquees was in charge of Indian canoeing and Kayaking women’s Squad for Asian games in 2010. In the same year she was included in the International refereeing panel of canoeing and kayaing. She was the Chief Coach of senior team at Japan Olympic in 2011. Lately, she was selected as the International technical official in African games held at Maputo in Mozambique.

About this Bliquees says, “Getting appointed as ITO, is a dream come true for me. This historic moment will always belong to a Kashmiri Women”. The state has honoured her with the prestigious award of outstanding sports person in 2010 and Sheri-Kashmir Medal in 2011. “The State should have supported me much earlier. I am happy now. At least they recognized my talent”. Said Bilquees.


  1. In some situations canoeing refers to both canoeing and kayaking. Other than by the minimum competition specifications (typically length and width (beam) and seating arrangement it is difficult to differentiate most competition canoes from the equivalent competition kayaks..



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