Despite second hand rented equipment Farukh Usman managed to win a gold medal for Kashmir in skiing. Saima Bhat reports the highs and lows of his journey
Ask him what it is like being a sportsperson in Kashmir and disappointment takes over nineteen-year-old FarukhUsman’s face. Usman, who has won gold and a bronze medal in skiing at two national level competitions, is the first Kashmiri selected for prestigious FIS race held in Turkey.
Born in a sport loving family in 1996, Usman’s father, a retired KAS officer and an enthusiastic skier, had to abandon his dream midway in order to manage his family’s expenses. “Nothing has changed since,” claims Usmaan, a Btech student, who considers skiing as a part time option only. “Nobody other than my father,” says Usman,“can feel the pain of being a sportsman in Kashmir.”
Riding on his father’s dream, Usman started skiing from a tender age of nine. “My father used to send me and my sister to Gulmarg for practice at Jammu and Kashmir Mountaineering and Hiking Club,” recalls Usman. “He was a member of that group.”
This practice arrangement continued for two years. “After that I had to take a leave for two years as I injured myself during practice,” says Usman.
In 2009, after nursing his injury, Usman was back and training with professionals like Manzoor Khan and army’s coach called Guru ji in Gulmarg. “But that did not last for long and I was again training without any coach,” says Usman.
Three year later, Usman participated in both local and state level competitions, but to his utter disappointment he lost all the races. “My colleagues used to practice for three months while I got just ten days,” Usman argues.
The next step for Usman was to find a sponsorship, and for that he approached Tyndale Biscoe School, his alma mater. “And I got one from Punjab with their help,” says Usman.
In 2013, thanks to this sponsorship, Usman won his first medal, a bronze, at a national level competition. With bronze in his kitty, Usman got a chance to represent state at Auli, Uttrakhand in 2014. “I spent 25 days practicing for the big event under coach Arif Khan,” says Usman. “During the practice session I got a chance to meet a Japanese coach who was on a personal trip to Gulmarg.”
Usman recalls how he had to convince his parents for Auli event as it was coinciding with his 12th standard examinations. By the time he managed to convince them, all new skiing equipment, available in the market were already rented out. “We compete in national level events using skis meant for beginners,” says Usman. “Skiers from other states have best equipment provided by their governments.”
A full skiing kit – pair of ski board, bindings, shoes, a set of poles, helmet and chin guards – cost around Rs 3 lakhs.
Usman says, skiers in Kashmir use second hand skiing kits procured from Manali, and still manage to get medals. “But still nobody appreciates our efforts”.
Usman blames his second hand skiing kit for his loss in Auli Championship. “During final phase of the race my ski couldn’t bear my weigh and I fell down,” says a visibly upset Usman. “Other participants had international standard skies.”
Depressed, Usman managed to rent a fresh pair of skis for next stage of Auli Championship called Slalom Race. As a result Usman won gold medal by defeating his rival by 10 seconds gap, highest in the competition. “It was because of this gold medal that I got selected by Winter Games Federation of India (WGFI) for FIS race in Turkey.”