The World SnowShoe Championship-2019 was declared open officially on Friday in Val Di Non, Trento Italy with Kashmir SnowShoe athletes representing India in the championship.
The event in which athletes from 29 countries are participating got off to a grand start on Friday evening with representatives taking part in the march through old city of Trento followed by the official ceremony that involved a lighting and cracker show.
This year World SnowShoe Championship is being held as part of the 40th edition of La Ciaspolada race and is being conducted by Societa Podistica Novella under the auspices of World SnowShoe Federation (WSSF).
It is fourth time that the team of athletes from Kashmir representing SnowShoe Federation of India would be participating in the World SnowShoe championship. This year Federation has deputed four member team that includes two officials and one athlete. The format of the competition is such that even officials take part in the race and that applies to the Indian contingent from Kashmir as well. The Kashmir athletes included sports promoter Arif Laigaroo as manager, Gulzar Ahmad Khan as athlete, Mushtaq Bashir as athlete and Abid Hussain as World SnowShoe Federation official. The team is being sponsored by Heevan Retreat, Ahad Hotels & Resorts, J&K Bank, Mushtaq Group of Hotels and Kehwa Group.
Before the official ceremony, the contingent also attended the World Congress meet of WSSF and put their views and suggestions across to the delegates from around the world. The suggestions and views from the contingent focused on the promotion of the SnowShoe sport and activity in India and in the region of Kashmir.
"It is great opportunity for us provided by SnowShoe Federation of India (SSFI) to be part of this mega event. The opening ceremony was grand with lot of shows at display. The race is going to be held on January 6 and in it the organizers expect around 6000 athletes to participate," said Mushtaq Bashir.
Arif Laigaroo said that he has not seen anything like this in Kashmir in which race of this magnitude was held.
"I have been part of many events in Kashmir but not on this scale. The people, organizers are committed to their goal and give everything to make it a success. They had started this race around 40 years ago and it has turned into World's biggest SnowShoe race. I saw the pictures displayed during official ceremony and was delighted to see how from a humble beginning it has turned into a flagship race for World SnowShoe athletes," he said.
"For the race they had no snow at all and it looked like world event will not happen. But then they joined together and worked hard to make it happen. They have brought snow from mountains and made a race course. It is big learning experience for me and the teammates," he said.
Khan Gulzar who has been a national medal winning athlete is competing in his first World SnowShoe race and is focused on leaving a mark.
"It is first time to be part of the event and among the top athletes. I am focused on the race. My first aim is to complete the race as it is tougher than normal running. The course is of 10-kilometres involving gradual steep slopes and will be a challenge for athletes. I am thankful to SnowShoe federation of India President Mir Mudassar for providing me this chance to be part of the championship," he said.
"I am also thankful to sponsors who made it possible for us to participate in this".
SSFI President Mir Muddasar said that the Federation is focused on making SnowShoe activity popular in Kashmir and other parts of the India.
"We would like to field a big team and leave a mark at world events but we have been facing problems in getting visa for athletes. We are doing our bit in making the activity popular and with the passage of time will turn this activity into major one in our part of the country as well as other parts where you get the snowfall," he said.
"More than sport we are focusing on it to be an everyday activity for us during winters. It will help us to develop tourism in various parts of state that get snow and not just Gulmarg," he added.