Alpine skier Arif Khan may not be as famous as javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra today but he would soon be the king of winter sports in India, a star who will revolutionise the Kashmir story.
With him will change how the world looks at Kashmir. The first signs are already there — there is an air of optimism among the youth who want to follow Arif’s footsteps and bring glory to the country. Arif Khan may not have won any medal at the Beijing Winter Olympics but he has lit the fire of imagination among the sportsmen, much as Neeraj Chopra did when he won India’s first gold medal in athletics at the Tokyo Olympics.
By all measures, Arif Khan from the Tangmarg area of Baramulla district in Kashmir is not an ordinary sportsman. He was the first-ever skier from India to have qualified for the Olympics in both slalom and giant slalom.
Though he stood 45th in the Beijing Winter Olympics, millions in India wished him good luck as he led the one-man Indian team, himself. He was the only one from India to have qualified for the Olympics.
Kashmir has over the years, largely due to Pakistan, become a symbol of beauty of nature and beast of terrorism. Arif Khan, a local Kashmiri boy’s emergence on the world sports scene is set to change this image. The days of honouring and praising terrorist leaders would soon be gone.
People will hail sports heroes like Arif Khan in the days to come.
J&K’s first-ever Olympian, Gul Mustafa Dev, who represented India in the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary, Canada, is sure that Arif’s rise will give a big boost to winter sport not only in Kashmir but across India.
On home turf, there is a flurry of activity among people and sportspersons. The young, budding athletes see Arif’s presence in Beijing Olympics as the ‘Neeraj Chopra moment’ for them, a beacon of hope and inspiration. It is a dream come true for every Kashmiri athlete. Like Arif, they too want to represent India in the world sports arena, especially the Olympics — the pinnacle of sports.
“From Kashmir to the Olympics! Really proud to see Arif Khan, the only athlete representing India at Beijing 2022 carry the tricolor high!” said Abhinav Bindra, the first Indian Olympic gold medallist before the opening ceremony.
The Arif moment is sweeping across Kashmir and India. And all those who love sports look forward to a day when India would be counted among the top winter sports champions. Arif Khan’s true contribution would be known when hundreds of Kashmiri young men and women would strive in their respective sports to hold the tricolor at the world’s top sporting arena.