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Constant practice takes Arif Khan to the Winter Olympics

Caption: Skier Arif Khan.Special Arrangement  

Arif Khan, 31, a young man from the Kashmir valley, is all set to represent India at the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics. He has practised skiing consistently for eight to nine months a year in minus 20-25 degrees Celsius to make it to the coveted sports competition.

In an exclusive interview to The Hindu from Europe, Mr. Khan, the son of a ski tour operator from a hilly pocket of north Kashmir’s Baramulla, said he had been preparing for the last four years to realise his dream to participate in the Winter Olympics. He won the spot for India in Alpine Skiing at the Entry League FIS event in Dubai in November this year. Participating in winter sports events around the world since 2005, Mr. Khan has represented India more then 127 times.

“It takes physical fitness, the ability to be quick at turns between the gates, while going down icy slopes at speed. I ski eight to nine months a year. In Gulmarg, I can ski for just three or four months because of the change in snow conditions. One of the most challenging parts of this sport is enduring severe cold, and training in minus 20 or minus 25 degrees Celsius,” Mr. Khan said.

Mr. Khan, who hails from the Tangmarg hill station that’s adjacent to the famous north Kashmir ski resort of Gulmarg, attributed his success to his father Yaseen Khan, who introduced him to skiing when he less than 10 years old. “My father has played the main role in my career. He raised me as an athlete and provided me with support whenever it was needed,” Mr. Khan said.

Mr. Khan’s entry into the Olympics has again put a spotlight on India’s winter sports talent at a time when the games are fading into oblivion for lack of thrust.

“I see the upcoming Olympic event will be a challenging one because everything is prepared artificially, like snow on the race slopes, but I expect a good performance because I am training on the same [artificial] snow conditions in Europe at the moment. It shouldn’t be that difficult during the races,” Mr. Khan said.

But he is less than happy with the infrastructure available to skiers in the country.

“What I have experienced as a winter sports athlete so far is that reaching to the Olympic standard requires solid infrastructure in terms of building ski slopes, which should be recognised by the international ski federation. We need more ski lifts, regular maintenance of slopes, national and international-level events to be conducted in the country, and facilities for athletes in terms of training, coaching and equipment,” he said.

Mr. Khan is hopeful that if the infrastructure is upgraded in Kashmir, “we will have the top-level athletes within the country in the next four years”.

“We have all the basic facilities in Gulmarg. I believe we will have advanced infrastructure developed in the near future and that will help us win medals at the international standard of Alpine skiing,” he said.

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Printable version | Jan 22, 2022 10:56:49 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/practiced-36-months-for-4-years-in-minus-25-degree-celsius-to-reach-olympics-kashmirs-arif-khan/article37837657.ece

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