TANGMARG (BARAMULLA): Nine kilometers inside from the main road of Tangmarg on Srinagar-Gulmarg road is a village Goiwarain Hajibal, where Arif Khan (31), who represented India at the Beijing Winter Olympics lives.
The village is sleepy and is sparsely populated. The mood is celebratory. The family of Arif is distributing sweets and requesting everybody to pray for his grand success.
Arif’s mother, Zareefa Bagum is welcoming the villagers, relatives and anybody who visits. Kashmiri ‘kahwa’ amid chill is being served.
“Since childhood, it was his dream and it almost came true,” Bagum told The New Indian. “When he was only four years old, he started skiing and hard work bore fruits.”
She says that Arif has visited many countries. “Inshallah, he will will make the entire county proud,” Zareefa said. “What can be s more proud moment that my son carried tricolour at opening ceremony in China.”
The family says that there were disappointing moments for Arif, but he never gave up. “Four years ago, he failed in one race in Europe and had missed the Pyeongchang Games,” one of the family members said, adding that Arif was bitterly disappointed. “Next winter he went and trained with greater drive,” he said.
“It was only our father who would keep arranging funds for his training,” he said.
His father has been running ski equipment shop from last about 35 years at a famous resort in Gulmarg, about 14 kilometers away from Tangmarg.
Arif, family said, last year in November qualified for Beijing Winter Olympics during a Dubai event for the Beijing Games. “I have never seen him so happy when he managed to qualified. He really got emotional in Dubai after qualifying to represent India,” the family member recalls.
After qualifying, Arif used to hit the high icy Gulmarg slopes alone at 5.30 a.m. “Then whole day he used to train for physical fitness and he is obsessed with keeping calories in check,” the family members said, adding that his breakfast used to be a Kashmiri roti and half boiled egg.
In the village, he is a known as a wicketkeeper. “We knew he loved skiing but he never missed cricket in the village,” says Arshad Rather, a youth. In the village they know as ‘Arif bhai’. “He is an excellent wicket-keeper. Besides cricket, he also loves cycling,” he said.
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