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Women

Bilquis Mir – Kayaking Star and the First Water Sports Coach from Kashmir

Bilquis Mir, 34, is India’s pride in kayaking, and an example for women, especially those from Kashmir, to step out and create a unique identity like that of Mir. The lady from Kashmir has been a part of several national and international kayaking championships in the past and has won many rewards and recognition for her performances. Let us read more about Bilquis’s journey from the beginning and take a look at the heights she has reached today.

Bilquis Mir – Early Life and Beginning of Kayaking Career

While witnessing several events throughout history, the Dal Lake has also been a source of livelihood for many across the valley. However, in the case of Bilquis Mir, the valley’s kayaking and canoeing star, the lake has played a different role. In 1998, with only two old boats to practice, Bilquis began her paddling career from the lake. Back then, she had no role model. But perhaps, then, she wouldn’t have foreseen that she was on her way to becoming one herself!

Social and Technical Roadblocks

Initially, Bilquis’s decision to pursue a career in kayaking and canoeing, two otherwise lesser-known sports across the valley, met with resistance from her parents. They wanted her to become a doctor. However, the young lady was determined to follow her interests, and that’s precisely what she did!

Besides, as mentioned earlier, she had no role model whom she could follow and did not have modern kayaking and canoeing equipment to learn the required skills. All she had was a dream and the determination to represent India at the international level and serve as an inspiration for others.

Achievements as a Kayaking and Canoeing Athlete

From 1998 to 2006, Bilquis represented her state and won more than 25 national-level medals. Later, she represented India at the 2009 World Cup held in Szeged, Hungary. There, she became the first sports woman from Jammu & Kashmir to represent the country. Bilquis could reach the semi-finals in the tournament. She considers it a substantial achievement for her and India, as it was the first time that any athlete from India had competed at that level.

Appointment as a Judge in a Major Tournament

2020 proved to be another milestone year for Bilquis. She became the first Indian to be appointed as a judge by the Asian Confederation Office in Japan for the qualifying rounds of kayaking and canoeing Asian qualifiers of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. The qualifiers were held in March at Pattaya, Thailand.

Director of Water Sports Centre

Bilquis Mir, who started without a role model, is now one of many water sports enthusiasts across the country. As the Director of the Water Sports Centre on Dal Lake, she has more than 300 girls and trained over 3,000 players. Of course, when she started, only one girl had enrolled in the center; however, as awareness grew so did the number of girls. During the last three years, her students have won 120 medals at the national level.

Bilquis’s Dreams

The young lady from Kashmir aspires to put Indian water sports on the global map. She also aims to find talent not only in Jammu & Kashmir, but in other parts of the country where water sports are played.

Bilquis as an Inspiration and Role Model

When Bilquis began her paddling career, she didn’t have a specific benchmark or someone she could look up to. However, today, the lady is not only a kayaking and canoeing role model but an inspiration to several who aspire to create a unique identity for themselves. As mentioned earlier, Bilquis too hailed from a conventional family that wanted her to become a doctor. But then, she made it and made it big in the world of water sports. She not only made a mark for herself but honed the talent of thousands.

People like Bilquis prove that Kashmir is a treasure of talent. Of course, a lot of it is yet to be explored and the good news is that Kashmiris are stepping out and setting examples. However, there’s much more to come. So, we hope talent blossoms across the valley, and we see many more of Bilquis’ fabric emerging in the future.

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