Leh-Ladakh Debutantes Compete at Khelo India Games, Internet Ban Affects J&K Gymnast's Preparations
Despite harsh weather conditions, the players practiced consistently before making their way to the third edition of Khelo India Youth Games.
For Nusrat Rehman and Yasmeen Batool, it has been a “learning experience” to compete with the country's best young players.
Guwahati: “Had we been part of Jammu and Kashmir today, not a single child would have been selected from our place,” said Tashi Tsering, the nodal officer accompanying the first seven-member contingent of the newly formed union territory of Leh and Ladakh.
“We are very happy to be participating in the third edition of Khelo India Youth Games. Our children did not get a chance in the previous two Khelo India events. Last time we were with J&K, but this time we are getting a full chance – the children are participating in archery and boxing,” said Tsering.
For Nusrat Rehman and Yasmeen Batool, it has been a “learning experience” to compete with the best of young players in the country.
“This has happened for the first time in the history of Leh. It feels so good, and I am very proud to bag this opportunity. Though I was somewhat nervous to participate in such a big event, my parents have been very supportive. They insisted that I go. Looking at others here, I feel we should improve our technique, and if we have similar equipment, we can perform well,” said 18-year-old Yasmeen from Kargil.
“We had practiced to shoot at distances between 20 and 30 metres, but here we are competing to shoot for 60 metres. We get little time to practice there - when it is snowing and the roads are blocked. Also, I have to go for tuitions,” said 16-year-old Nusrat, a student at Islamic Public School in Leh.
Kunzang Dolma, contingent’s Chef de Mission (CDM), said the players have been practicing since the past three months despite harsh weather conditions.
“The weather is an obstacle as it gets very cold. But the athletes come out for practice along with their coach and other officials even when it snows. We are here as a ‘wild card’ entry after becoming a union territory. Of the 24 registered students, seven got selected this time.”
The authorities are hopeful of getting government support to fulfill major infrastructure needs.
“We work hard despite the difficult terrain and lack of infrastructure. We do not have a proper ground and practice in the sand in local conditions. There is no full-fledged indoor stadium either. We practice at our level – wherever we find a small hall, we practice boxing there. We play other sports such as volleyball and football in the sand. But when temperature hits minus twenty, we can’t play any outdoor sport. We have proposed the setting up of indoor halls so that our players can practice in winter,” said Tsering, adding that every block in Leh-Ladakh should have an ice hockey rink.
While weather hampered practice for Nusrat and Yasmeen, mobile internet suspension affected preparations for Bavleen Kaur, a young gymnast from the six-member Jammu and Kashmir contingent.
“I stay in Jammu and could not watch practice videos due to internet suspension in the state. It is important for us to observe gymnastic skills and practice. Studies have also been quite a challenge without the internet,” Kaur said.
“It has not been easy at all. We do not get anything in our territory. We have been given a hall to practice gymnastics. Earlier, we used to share it with the badminton players. We had very less space. They have now given us a floor as well, but we need apparatus and it is quite expensive. Not everyone can afford it. Even without facilities, we are here today because of our coaches,” said Kaur, who is competing in the Under-21 category, and wants to represent the country at Commonwealth Games.
Saleem Ur Rehman, director general, Youth Sports and Services, believes players can perform better when provided with better infrastructure.
“We had pathetic infrastructure in J&K, and no international level cricket stadium before. The Moulana Azad Stadium in Jammu would be inaugurated this month, and I hope we can someday have an IPL match there. We are trying to come up with infrastructure in rural and remote areas because people are active here, they want to improve, but do not have facilities. Pahari bacche hai (These kids are from the mountains) but without infrastructure, they cannot compete at the national level.”
Rehman is happy for the Leh-Ladakh contingent for getting a chance to “grow more and get mainstream exposure”.
“It is good that they are now an independent group – they will grow more and get exposure. Earlier, if we had to send four players and left to choose between Srinagar, Jammu and Leh-Ladakh, their players did not get a chance. Now, it is a win-win situation. Instead of four, we have eight players – the overall advantage is for our people only,” said Rehman, adding that his team is doing “reasonably well even though it is a tough completion”.
“Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal said he wants to make the state a sports hub. I wish the same for Jammu and Kashmir. If people are given free hand, if they are spoken with, and asked about their constraints and how they wish to improve, I am sure J&K will be one of the finest in the country in a very short period of time,” he remarked.
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