Wanted to shatter the image of Kashmiri youth as stone pelters: Arif Khan | More sports News – Times of India

Beijing Winter Olympics-bound skier Arif Khan hopes to make a difference with his achievement
NEW DELHI: “It was always my goal to do something for the people of Kashmir which could inspire them, make a difference to their lives. Just the way Shah Faesal’s success influenced the youth of the Valley back in 2010,” skier Arif Mohammed Khan told TOI.
Arif is the latest sporting talent from the Valley who has done the country proud by becoming the first Indian athlete to directly qualify for two different events of a Winter Olympics. The 31-year-old from Baramulla district will represent India in the men’s giant slalom and slalom events at the Beijing Winter Games, scheduled from February 4-20. He earned the Olympics quota spot in giant slalom at an International Ski Federation (FIS) event in Kolasin, Montenegro on December 29 after securing the qualification in slalom in Dubai a month ago.
Arif is back in India from Dubai on a three-day visit after spending much of his 2021 training and travelling in Europe to realise his long-standing dream – to qualify for the Olympics. Before leaving for his historic journey to Beijing, Arif has a message to share with the Kashmiri youth when he visits his hometown – ‘If I can do it, so can you’.


Arif Khan. (AFP Photo)
“This was always my goal (to shatter this image of Kashmiri youth as stone pelters or protestors). I always wanted to do something which would inspire my people, the way they live or think. In Kashmir, we always needed someone (as a youth icon) to enlighten the young minds. I still remember back in those days in 2010, we had Shah Faesal (the first Kashmiri to top the Indian Civil Services Examination nationwide) who came out of nowhere and went on to inspire an entire generation of young minds. Later, over the years, the youth of the Valley followed him in the education sector. In cricket, too, we had a few guys who secured contracts with the IPL teams or went on to play for the Indian team,” Arif said.
“But, when you talk about the Olympics, we were far behind. Today, as things stand, I can sense that Kashmir is very much involved in my success. The message is clear that there’s talent in the Valley, especially in sports. My qualification for the Olympics has given the Kashmiri youth the hope of achieving something good in life. Generally, we want the message of happiness delivered that there’s a lot of talent in the region,” he added.


Arif Khan. (AFP Photo)
Arif informed that to achieve his Olympic dream, he has put his marriage plans on hold. “It’s kind of become the talk of the town. I could have got married in August-September last year with all the arrangements in place. But that would have diverted me from my training and the ultimate goal of qualifying for the Games. I spoke to my would-be and informed her about my decision. She backed my decision. She said, ‘I will wait for you. You got to go for your dream first’. It was kind of difficult to convince the family but she understood my story and the sacrifices that I have made and stood by me.”
Not many would know that Arif couldn’t compete at the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics after he fell short of arranging Rs 1.5 lakh to fund his trip to the last qualification event in Switzerland. “We really had bad years for tourism in the Valley between 2016 and 2018. My family couldn’t save enough for my training and travel. A part of my training and travel is funded from the money which we earn from our tourism business (in Gulmarg). The other reason was the lack of support from the national federation (Winter Games Federation of India) and corporate sector. That’s the reason I missed the Olympics after running short of money.”


Arif Khan. (AFP Photo)
Talking about the difficulty faced by him to compete in international events in times of Covid-19, Arif said he has been tested for RT-PCR a whopping 193 times crisscrossing the globe. “I have been keeping a count. I write it down everytime. It’s history, so you must write it down.”
Arif has set a realistic target for himself at the Games. He wants to finish among the world’s top-30 during his competition days which are February 13 and 16.

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