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Kabra Altaf: A Champion Judo Player from Srinagar

Kabra Altaf from Nishat area in Srinagar has brought laurels for her state by excelling at Judo and earning wide recognition for her skills in this sport. Here is a brief account of this young Judo player from Kashmir.

During childhood, at the tender age of 5, Kabra Altaf climbed the Zabarwan hills in Srinagar. This was the first time she engaged in a sport. Later, during her school years, she took active part in various sports activities, which is when she was introduced to skiing and mountaineering. She completed her schooling from Sunrise Public High School and from GHS, Sonwar.

In 2009, she completed an advanced course in skiing from the Indian Institute of Skiing and Mountaineering and went on to be an expert at skiing. She won numerous awards at the state and national levels, which include medals at the Gondola Cup and Gulmarg Cup and two silver medals in a national skiing competition. She also selected for an international skiing championship. For some reasons, she could not take part in this event and she was disappointed, but she did not give up her pursuit of the sports.

Since Kabra Altaf’s father is a martial arts athlete himself, she had learned some self-defense techniques and some throwing techniques from him. He used to tell her about how strong sportspeople are and explain other benefits of sports. This further fueled her inclination for sports which grew over time and in 2011, she decided to take up Judo as her profession. Accompanied by her father, she visited the Indoor Stadium where she decided to compete in Judo. 

Soon, she was selected for the Nationals. Then, she received training at the Bhopal Academy, where she won a medal. Later, she was selected to practice Judo at the Centre of Excellence, Netaji Subhas National Institute of Sports, also called National Institute of Sports (NIS), in Patiala. She would practice for two and a half years at NIS.

Kabra believes that she has been fortunate to train under some of the best Judokas in the field. Initially, she received training from Shafkat Shafi in Srinagar. Later, she was trained by one of India’s best coaches Jiwan Sharma. At the Inspire Academy in Bangalore, she received guidance from Georgian coach, Mamuka Kizilashvili.

Once during her Judo practice, Kabra injured her knee, after which she had to undergo a surgery and was advised complete rest for the next one and a half year. This phase was extremely difficult for her. She was always worried about whether she would be able to compete again. Fear often gripped her, but she did not lose hope. She decided to stay positive and bounce back to be the best at Judo.

In 2017, Kabra resumed Judo practice and soon started participating in competitions. That year, she won gold at the 62nd National School Games in New Delhi. Acing at the School Games Federation of India was indeed a remarkable achievement. She was then selected at some India camps and later at the Inspire Institute of Sports in Bangalore, where she won the gold medal at the Junior Nationals. 

She took part in Khelo India two times, and won medals. For Khelo India, SpiceJet had sponsored her. She asked them to provide youngsters of Kashmir with mats for practice. Thus, instead of looking at individual gains, she utilized the sponsorship for the welfare of Judo in her state. Kabra was among the top four to be selected for the trials of the Open Commonwealth championship in 2020. She was one of the top four to be selected for the World University Games trials.

Kabra competed in the 63 kg weight category, later in the 78 kg weight category, where she won a bronze medal, and further in some other categories as well. She achieved the rare feat of playing in four different categories and winning medals in all of them. She has been honoured with the State Sports Person Award, a highly acclaimed state award.

Apart from competing at Judo, she has worked as an instructor at the Indoor Stadium for girls and boys and trained the young women of her college. Currently, she is pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Arts from the Women’s College, Srinagar.

Kabra Altaf thinks that Judo is not just a sport but an art, which can be practiced at any age. In her words, Judo gives us a code of ethics and a way of life. It includes a full-body workout and helps improve cardiovascular health, endurance, flexibility, strength, speed and balance. It helps develop a fighting spirit and improves reaction timing.

According to Kabra, athletics and sports have been male-dominated fields for a long time. However, women have started taking up sports as their career, and society is witnessing a positive change. She is of the opinion that the liberation of women should be linked to the awakening of their inner will. She thinks that apart from discrimination, there are other challenges such as lack of financial support and less facilities. Moreover, indoor sports are not as popular as outdoor ones.

Judo is Kabra’s passion and she wishes to realize her parents’ dream of seeing her as the best sportsperson of the nation. She wants to work towards improving sports facilities in her state and get Judo on the list of mainstream sports. The journey of this young, talented Judoka, is definitely inspiring.

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