Three Kayaking and Canoeing players from Jammu and Kashmir who won laurels for Team India at the recently concluded global competition in Germany are ruing the lack of infrastructure that has crippled the game in the state, Umer Beigh reports.
Out of 11 Asian players who participated in the recent International Canoe Slalom Championship held in Markkleeberg, Germany, it was the players from Jammu and Kashmir won medals for Team India in Kayaking and Canoeing competitions.
Showkat Ahmad, Waseem Raja, Irfan Ahmad, the three top Kayaking and Canoeing players have represented Jammu and Kashmir state from past many years. Now it will be high honor for the state if these players find a place in Olympic 2016 which will be held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
During the recent International Canoe Slalom Championship which was held from March 29 to April 1, Showkat, Waseem and Irfan represented Team India, the only Asian Country participating along with other eight players from other states across India.
The players were selected by the committee under Indian Kayaking and Canoeing Association for their performance in last year’s Slalom White-Water Kayaking and Canoeing National Championship hosted by Jammu and Kashmir at River Sindh in Sonamarg. The Jammu and Kashmir had won that Championship by bagging eight medals.
The internationally popular Kayaking and Canoeing sport uses special kind of boats known as ‘Canoe’ and ‘Kayak’ that run in stagnant and running water respectively. Jammu and Kashmir, with its rich water bodies, is among the best venues to host these adventurous water sports. In Kayaking and Canoeing sport, there are around 11 disciplines. Most common is Dragan Boat – human-powered watercraft and Whitewater Slalom – Canoe rapid-fast.
Four players that were selected from Jammu and Kashmir were supposed to participate in International Canoe Slalom Championship. Unfortunately, Parvaiz Ahmad Shagu was dropped as his passport had expired.
Hailing from North Kashmir’s Badgam, Showkat Ahmad, 28, is a Constable in Jammu and Kashmir Police. Other than participating in recent International Canoe Slalom Championship, he is the most experienced player of the state.
“When I first came to know about this sport, I found it interesting. I was hopeful of playing it,” he says. Since then, he participated in all the four national events that were hosted by J&K. Before getting selected for International Championship, Showkat says, the players had to work hard in Bhopal during the 40-day trail selection that was organized by Sports Authority of India.
“Many players across India were on trail selections there, but out of them best lot of players were chosen for the major International event. Fortunately, we were among the selected players,” he says.
The J&K Kayaking and Canoeing Association was established 28 years ago. But, according to Showkat, the association is yet to have their own Canoes and Kayaks. “It is proud moment. Despite lacking basic equipments, we still managed to win in a major event. This shows what we are capable off,” he says.
Irfan Ahmad, 20, another player is a Class 12 student at Shalimar Higher Secondary School in Srinagar. He was fifteen years old when he first started participating in Kayaking and Canoeing.
When he went to Germany for the first time to participate in the championship, he says, there was a totally different atmosphere. “All participating players were representing 53 top clubs from 15 different countries. They were highly talented. The competition was tough but we still achieved overall best ranking in both Kayaking and Canoeing categories,” he says.
The youngest of the players of the state that participated in the International Canoe Slalom Championship was 19-year-old Waseem Raja, a next-door neighbor of Irfan. Both of them live on outskirts of Srinagar city.
Waseem has been associated with the sport from a very early age. “I was never sure that in such a short time I will be participating in such a championship. We singlehandedly won for team India. We must continue to excel in upcoming national events,” he says.
The vice-president of Indian Kayaking and Canoeing Association and General Secretary of J&K Kayaking and Canoeing Association, Umer Ashraf, assisted Team India as Chief Coach in Germany. From past four years, he is heading the J&K Kayaking and Canoeing Association. He says the association needs to have their own boats. “We beg higher authorities for equipment during demanding situations,” he says.
The sport has a wide appeal at a global level but it is least growing sport in Kashmir. Ashraf says the association is far behind others, despite having the good potential of natural resources to host major events. “Government apathy is largely responsible for it. Giving attention to such games can boost the state tourism as well,” he says.
“Our state has high chance of topping such sport internationally if government provides us basic equipments,” Yasir, another player, said.