Kashmiri Olympian honoured after 20 years

Publish Date: Jan 28 2009 12:00PM

Srinagar, Jan 27: The J&K government announced an award in honour of the only Olympian of the state, Gul Mustafa Dev, on the eve of Republic Day, recognising his services after 20 years in that way.
 Of the 17 awards announced on January 26, four were given to the imminent sportspersons including 12th grade student, Mitali in Gymnastics, Ram Singh Slathia in mountaineering, Ajay Sharma in table tennis and Gul Mustafa Dev in skiing.
 A resident of Maharaja Bazar, Gul Mustafa represented India in the Winter Olympics in Calgary Canada bagged in February 1988. It took the government over 20 years to recognize his contribution to honour him with the state award. Gul, currently associated with the department of Youth Services and Sports for ski training to students, is camping in Gulmarg. He got the news of the award through one of his friends. “I am very happy and thank the government for recognizing my services,” Gul told Greater Kashmir. “I think, it should have happened earlier but better late than never—they have atleast remembered my contribution.”
 He said getting state award was an honour and every sportsperson should aspire for it. “Sports are in my blood,” he said. “My father, Haji Habi-ul-lah Dev, was an ace goalkeeper of his times.”
 He said even the Maharaja acclaimed his goalkeeping skill. “Maharaja Hari Singh gave him the nickname of Habib Punz,” he said.
 Gul participated in the Gulmarg National games in February 1984 but could not fair well. However, the very next year, he proved his mettle and won the gold in giant slalom and two bronze in downhill race and slalom event.
 Owing to the brilliant performance, he was selected for Asian Winter Games held in Japan in February 1985 in which India got the fifth position. Eventually, Gul was selected for the Canada Olympics after getting through the trials held in Gulmarg in 1988.  “It was a dream come true for me to participate in the Olympics,” Gul said. “The ecstasy of the participation is indescribable.”
 Since1993, Mustafa has trained over 10,000 boys and girls in skiing at Gulmarg and among them many have participated in the national and international competitions.
 Gul Mustafa has not only marvelled in his sporting career but has given his full to the coaching profession as well.
 In February 2004, the Winter Sports Federation of India selected Gul as coach of the sub-junior team for junior Asian championship held in china.
 Gul said Gulmarg, Pahalgam and Sonamarg offered world-class ski venues. “With the introduction of the second phase of Gulmarg gondola, the high-altitude skiing can be more fascinating,” he said.
 He said skiing was an expensive sport beyond the reach of a common man to afford. “A pair of skis costs around 50 thousand to one lakh rupees,” he said. “Even our Sports Council does not have the equipment of its own. It hires them from the tourism department.”

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