Bilquees Mir faced a lot of criticism when she decided to choose water sports as a career option more than two decades ago. The decision was a stark contrast to his contemporaries. But she didn’t budge and thanks to her courage and determination she excelled in the sport and made her parents proud.
Bilquees, Jammu and Kashmir’s first female international kayaker and international canoe-kayak judge, is one of the pioneers of water sports in UT as well as in the country.
What prompted her to choose watersports as a career path is an interesting story.
“It was in 1997, when I was studying at the modern school of the SA. I had a friend who was interested in this sport. I thought of accompanying him to Dal Lake where a canoeing event was being held. I just wanted to see how the players were doing it, ”she said.
With a smile on her face, she remembers, “I preferred to sit and enjoy watching others play from a distance. But one of the coaches at the event didn’t allow me to sit idly by. He strictly suggested that I play this sport or go home.
In her first attempt, she did not live up to her expectations. Without losing hope, she continues her attempts, learns well and decides to make a career out of it. “The boat capsized as well and all of my clothes were wet, and for days the event continued to ring in my mind,” said Bilquees, who is currently president of Canoe Slalom, Indian Kayaking and Canoeing Association.
After learning water sports and their techniques, she performed well in numerous competitions and was honored at state and national levels.
His path was not so easy; she had no money when she had the opportunity to participate in the world championship in Szeged, Hungary. “I did not have the money to mark my presence at the international level. I also asked my father. But he only had consolations for me. I was broken. But my mother helped me and sold her jewelry so that I could participate in the event. My mother was very optimistic about my future.
At first, she also had to face a lot of opposition and criticism. “My relatives criticized my decision. But that didn’t stop me from pursuing my passion and moving forward with a good mood.
Thanks to her hard work and with the support of her mother, she made her international debut in 2009 at the World Championship held in Hungary. After that, she didn’t look back and went on to win awards nationally and internationally.
Bilquees was also responsible for the Indian Women’s Canoe and Kayak Team for the Asian Games in 2010. In the same year, she was included in the International Canoe and Kayak Arbitration Panel. She was the head coach of the senior team at the 2011 Japan Olympics. Most recently, she was selected as an international technical official at the African Games held in Maputo, Mozambique.
She received a prestigious award for being an outstanding sportswoman in 2010 and the Sheri-Kashmir medal in 2011.
Emphasizing the need for the people of the valley to participate in sports, Bilquees said: “Sport can do wonders if taken seriously.
“I think people in Kashmir, especially girls, need to play sports. Braving all obstacles, the girls of Kashmir not only participate, but also excel in sports. Sport is taken for granted here in the valley. But when we leave Kashmir it has a whole new meaning. It has great reach and great respect, ”she said.
She said people need to be educated and counseled. “I get a good response from the students. Young people are eager to play sports. They just need the proper training, ”she said.
Bilquees finds kayaking and canoeing a different and inspiring sport and says the valley has the potential to develop adventure sports, including water sports, and become a global name and destination.
“Water sports are very adventurous and interesting. The government should promote it because we already have natural water resources here. We have Dal Lake, Nigeen Lake, Mansar Lake, Mansbal Lake, in addition to Sonamarg and Pahalgam which can be developed as wild water (canoe-slalom) destinations, ”she added.