Despite lack of help from state, Afreen Hyder manages to win two gold medals in Taekwondo at international level. Heena Muzzafar tells her story
When most of her classmates are busy worrying about their future, Afreen Hyder, 16, a student of Class 11 at Delhi Public School, Srinagar, is kicking her way to success, quite literally.
At 5 am, Afreen starts her day with routine exercise and morning walk. After school hours, she joins her taekwondo training classes, while staying away from junk food. “I was inspired by martial art movies,” said Afreen, who joined taekwondo classes at school at the age of seven.
A resident of uptown Hamdaniya Colony in Bemina, Afreen, has 18 Golds (National level), 2 Golds (International Level), and a heap of certificates earned in competitions held in different Indian cities and abroad, testifying her talent.
In 2009, when Afreen was in Class 4, she met Arshid Aziz, owner of Youngs Club – a martial art training centre in Srinagar. “I was impressed by his hold on South Korean art of self defence,” recalls Afreen. “That is why I joined his club.”
In the same year, Afreen, a small kid then, left all her fears back home and went to Orissa with her team, to participate in first national tournament.
“I still remember the excitement of my first solo trip,” says Afreen, beaming with smile. “My team treated me so nice that I did not even miss my family.”
So far Afreen has participated in four international, eighteen national and ten state level tournaments. Interestingly, Afreen has won all competitions, except one. “I kicked my opponent on her head, which is not allowed in Tang Soodo, an international tournament held at New Delhi, India,” recalls Afreen.
Her opponent was a young girl, who Afreen recalls, was shorter than her in height. “My normal kick landed on the head, injuring her slightly,” said Afreen. Unfortunately, after her opponent got injured, Afreen was declared runner up. “I got a bronze,” said Afreen.
Expressing her disappointment with state government, Afreen says, “We never got any sponsorship from state, instead, we bear all the expenses at our own, during our trip.”
Afreen and her team visited former chief minister Omar Abdullah and other concerned authorities as well, for sponsorship, but to no avail.
Authorities, who promised to provide some assistance to the players, never showed up except at the time of felicitation. Afreen remembers former DGP, Kuldeep Khuda promising them laptops if they win a tournament at Pune. “After we won, he never turned up,” said Afreen.
In 2012, Afreen went to Malaysia to participate in a taekwondo tournament. She was in Class 7, then. Next year, she went to Thailand to play Muay Thai – a stand-up local combat sport. “It was a different experience for me,” said Afreen. “Still I won gold.”
Given her quick rise Afreen, a Black Stripe holder, is already recommended for a Black Belt. Interestingly, in order to stay both grounded and focused, Afreen has refused to accept Black Belt. “No doubt I win all the games I participate in, but I don’t want to get over confident,” said Afreen.
After learning who they are fighting, at times Afreen’s opponents, bow out without a fight. Afreen, who has perfected in South Korean art of self defence, also played net football at state level in Jammu.
“Unfortunately I couldn’t make it to nationals despite selection,” said Afreen.
An animal lover, Afreen presently has four dogs, and a seven member cat family. Besides, Afreen loves to read fiction novels. “I have read forty novels so far,” said Afreen.