NEW DELHI: At the age of 4, Arif Mohammad Khan placed on skis for the primary time, only a few kilometres from the Line of Control that divides the disputed, conflict-ridden area of Kashmir.
It was to be the beginning of a tough journey that may culminate in him being the only athlete from India, a rustic of practically 1.4 billion individuals, when the Beijing Winter Olympics start on Friday (Feb 4).
Skiing is within the household. Arif’s father runs a ski store and tour firm in Gulmarg in Indian-administered Kashmir, one of many world’s highest ski resorts that provides the prospect to ski deep, contemporary powder.
It is reachable only by helicopter, and the Himalayan views are breathtaking.
But the Muslim-majority area has been cut up between India and Pakistan since independence in 1947, with the nuclear-armed neighbours each claiming it in full and preventing two of their three wars over it.
Territory managed by Pakistan is seen from Gulmarg’s highest sections, and the world has seen violence prior to now.
“There have been real difficulties going through the long-lasting conflict and many other issues,” mentioned Arif, 31.
“But if you have a dream and you want to live with your dream, nobody could stop you really,” he added, talking from coaching in Austria.
“You have to be brave.”
Arif confirmed early promise on the slopes, successful gold in his first look on the nationwide junior championship at 12.
Despite being residence to a part of the world’s highest mountain vary, winter sports activities barely determine in cricket-obsessed India’s sporting pursuits. The nation has beforehand despatched only 15 athletes to the Winter Games.
Usually wanting the cash wanted for journey, Arif’s coaching and aggressive actions in Europe have been largely funded by family and friends.
And the battle impacts everybody who lives in Kashmir.
Rebel teams have fought Indian forces for greater than three many years, demanding independence or merger with Pakistan, whereas Delhi accuses Islamabad of facilitating cross-border assaults within the territory, one thing it denies.
The insurgency erupted in 1989 – at instances gunfights and deaths occurred on what are actually Gulmarg’s slopes – and for round 15 years, tourism was diminished to a trickle, hammering the Khan household enterprise.