Shakir Ashraf meets the Kashmir ice skater who represented India in Europe
Basharat Ahad Mir, 17, a Parimpora (Srinagar) resident, became the first ice skater from Kashmir to win the gold medal in 2019 in Belarus Europe. A student of the twelfth class at Burn Hall School in Srinagar, he has been playing with snow throughout till he graduated in the game and started playing on the ice. He is a science student.
“When I was in the third standard, I started participating in roller skating, cycling and ice skating,” Mir said. “I want to reach the Olympics, as ice skating is an Olympic game. I prefer to take part in short track speed ice skating.”
It was in his LKG class when he won a race in school. After that, he continued to take part in athletic sports.
“During a sports event at Bakshi Stadium, Mohammad Asharaf Dijoo, General Secretary of Jammu and Kashmir Ice Skating Association was impressed by my performance and he asked me to join them,” Mir remembers.
Ice skating is the self-impulsion of a person across a sheet of ice, using metal blade ice skates to glide on the ice surface. The blade is almost 0.1mm in thickness.
Mir started ice skating at the age of 11 in Gulmarg, Kashmir’s own winter sports base. He used to travel from Srinagar to Gulmarg by bicycle.
“It is not easy to play internationally as you have to work hard for it,” Mir said. “During training camps in Gulmarg, I used to wake up at midnight for practice as in midnight temperature decreases from -15 to -20 in Gulmarg which freezes the ice completely as compared to the day”
During the ice skating practice at midnight, players have to wear thin tight clothes due to which Mir suffered a headache and fever several times but he didn’t give up. He was being driven by passion out of his warm bed during cold nights. “It was very hectic to continue sports as well as studies. However, some people told me that you are wasting time in ice skating as there is no future for a Kashmiri player in this. But I ignored them and continued my practice.”
Ice skating apart, Mir is also a professional cyclist, skier, roller skater and long-distance runner. He was given a cycle in his school which is worth Rs 1 lakh. He has won best skater of year four times in a row. Basharat is the first ice skater from Jammu and Kashmir who has represented the Ice Skating Association of India.
“The association has the main role in my international career. They helped me in camps which were organised by associations which used to be 15 days camps or a month.” Mir said. He added that his coach Mohammad Ashraf Dijoo has supported him a lot throughout his international career. “He always trained me in a better way and gave me his best”.
Earlier Mir was not sponsored by anyone. The gym centre which was not allowing Mir to enter is now sponsoring him. At the age of 18 Mir has won 104 events. Mir has played 2 nationals in skiing, 2 nationals in cycling, 3 nationals in roller skating and 3 in ice skating.
“In May 2019, the trials for ice skating were to happen in Delhi. I was in depression about how to reach there as I didn’t have enough money. But the whole credit goes to my school Burn Hall which then helped me and made it possible for me to reach there,” Mir said.
At that time Mir had no equipment. Then the tourism department provided this to him. This equipment, according to Mir, was rusty but he had no choice.
“When I took part in short track speed skating in Delhi, I performed well there. I was on my way back to the airport when my association rang me up and told me that you are selected for international. It was a dream come true for me”, Mir said.
According to Mir, he was given Rs 3 lakh in 2019 by Deputy Commissioner Srinagar (DC) Shahid Choudhary. “When I left for Europe for international, everything was stalled in Kashmir due to the abrogation of article 370. My parents were not aware where I was and I was also not aware how my parents are due to the communication gag,” Mir said.
Mir participated in the Belarus cup and Ice Skating Europe Union trophy (ISU) which were 500-metre and 1000-metre races. “I couldn’t perform well in the 500-metre race but performed brilliantly in the 1000 metre race. We won the ISU trophy for India there,” Mir said adding he was among four Under-19 international players who were selected for short track speed ice skating.
“I personally think that Kashmiri people are made for winter sports because we have the natural ice skating rink and also the world’s best skiing resort in Gulmarg,” Mir said. “I think it’s the best gift that God has given us and we must take advantage of it so that a lot of Kashmiris can represent the region at the international level”.