Srinagar, June 18: After years of being in the backdrop struggling to achieve its true status, J&K is fast turning into the Watersports hub of India with multiple National level events set to be held in the coming months.
In a major boost to the sport, J&K is set to host its first-ever National Rowing championship in Dal Lake, Srinagar from June 20 to 26 with more than 700 athletes, and officials representing 25 States, Union Territories participating. After that J&K would be hosting National events in Kayaking, Canoeing and Canoe Slalom disciplines in the coming months.
Despite J&K and particularly Kashmir boasting beautiful water bodies in abundance, a perfect setting for watersports, it will be the first time ever a National championship of Rowing-which is an elite watersports discipline, would be held in Kashmir.
To make this a reality, there has been a struggle and persistence of one person without whom it would have been impossible to achieve it. That person is Bilquis Mir who is considered a watersports icon of J&K and India.
It has all along been her single-handed effort to bring elite watersports events to Kashmir and make J&K the hub of watersports in the country. Apart from bringing National events to Kashmir, she has also been instrumental in getting the required infrastructure created for the sport through the Sports Authority of India and J&K Sports Council in both the provinces of the Union Territory. At present, Srinagar’s watersports centre at Nehru Park boosts the best available watersports infrastructure and equipment in the whole Country.
Currently working as Director of Watersports in Sports Council, Bilquis Mir has been associated with watersports since 1998. As a player, she has represented the Country in International events including the World Championship, Hungary and J&K in a number of national championships. She has bagged a number of medals at the National level in the sport. After hanging her shoes as an active player, she turned into a Coach and has been the India team coach in Canoeing from time to time. She has also officiated at various International events, including Asian Games in Indonesia.
Not restricting activity to her individual glory, Bilquis has been persistent in creating the best available watersports infrastructure in J&K. Over the years she has pleaded the case in various sports offices including the Sports Authority of India for the sport.
Her dream became a reality on October 28, 2020, when Lieutenant Governor J&K, ManojSinha inaugurated Water Sports Centre under the PMDP scheme at Nehru Park, Dal Lake. On the occasion, Lieutenant Governor also launched the International standard Water Sports Equipments.
For encouraging water sports in the Jammu region as well, a similar Water Sports Centre is coming up at RanjitSagarlake, Basohli.
“Lot has changed since I joined watersports in 1998. At that time this sport was confined to a particular community in Kashmir and today it has spread its wings all over J&K. People, not aware of its development think that watersports facilities and equipment that have been created were always like this and don’t know how much struggle and hard work has gone behind to make it a reality,” Bilquis said.
“Today’s World Class Watersports centre at Nehru Park used to be a shady submerged two-room hut with outdated equipment. Those who have been associated with watersports, know what has been achieved and how much it is going to help future generations,” Mir said.
Bilquis termed hosting Rowing National Championship in Srinagar a dream achieved for the watersports lovers of J&K.
“Though my basic sport discipline is Canoeing, I have pitched for the conduct of the Rowing National championship in Kashmir. J&K Sports Council has procured World Class Rowing equipment and it was fit to encourage J&K Rowing Association and its National Federation to hold a National event in India. After inspecting the facilities, the Rowing Federation of India granted the hosting rights to J&K,” she said.
Bilquis said that the stage is set for the mega event that would be held at SKICC, Dal Lake with all the arrangements made already.
“I have been deputed by Sports Council to assist J&K Rowing Association in the conduct of the event. It is a grand event with the participation of more than 700 people. During this peak tourist season making seven-day arrangements for such a large group is not a small thing. Everything has been made ready by the Association with the help of the J&K administration,” she said.
Talking about local talent in Rowing sports, Bilquis said, “Without the availability of required Rowing equipment it wasn’t possible for local talent to emerge in the particular discipline.
Regarding watersports potential and how much has been explored Bilquis said, “ We are yet to explore and take its full benefits. The dream is to make J&K watersports hub of the Country. We can hold events in both flat water and running water. We have natural settings and need is to host more and more National events. In future, we should go to International events”.
“Recently a Kayaking and Canoeing activity was held in Gurez and there should be more such activities. J&K is also going to host the Canoe Slalom National championship in Sonamarg in the coming months which will be another great achievement,” she added.