India Today - - GOOD NEWS - MEHROOSH MAN­ZOOR, 13, FAZIL AZIZ DAR, 10, ARSALAN AQIB WANI, 15, AQIB MUZAF­FAR DAR, 16, ZEE­SHAN DAR, 16, and ADIL BASHIR DAR, 21 Tong-Il-Moo-Do gold medal­lists, —by Gowhar Gee­lani

Their par­ents, mostly farm­ers, might strug­gle to make ends meet, but that hasn’t stopped them from en­cour­ag­ing their chil­dren to fol­low their dreams, even in the trou­ble-torn state of Kash­mir. Trained by their 29-year-old coach Bi­lal Ah­mad Dar in Tong-Il-Moo-Do, a mixed mar­tial art, six of the 20 young students from the Narkara ham­let in Kash­mir’s Budgam dis­trict clinched gold medals in the 2016 South Asian cham­pi­onships held re­cently in Thim­phu, Bhutan. Amir Ramzan, 15, won a sil­ver. The ac­com­plish­ment comes on the heels of an as­tound­ing win by Ta­ja­mul Is­lam, an eight-year-old Kash­miri girl from north Kash­mir’s Bandi­pora dis­trict, at the World Kick­box­ing cham­pi­onship in Italy.

Mehroosh Man­zoor says win­ning gold in an in­ter­na­tional com­pe­ti­tion gave her im­mense joy and con­fi­dence. Her achieve­ment came in the sub­ju­nior girls’ cat­e­gory (4548 kg) after win­ning four matches against Bhutan, Nepal, Ma­ha­rash­tra and Sri Lanka. “My par­ents are poor,” says the teenager. “They have strug­gled a lot for me. They al­ways sup­port and in­spire me to make a name for my Kash­mir at the global stage. And I have fi­nally made them proud.”

Ab­dul Aziz Dar, 43, is feel­ing equally proud of his two sons, Umair, 14, and Fazil, 10. Fazil won gold in the sub­ju­nior cat­e­gory (25­28 kg) after beat­ing ri­val ath­letes from Nepal, Bangladesh and Bhutan. “In my first game,” he says, “I ini­tially felt very ner­vous, but after win­ning a cou­ple of key points, there was no look­ing back.”

Fa­ther Ab­dul says, “It is not about the money or gold (medal), it is all about iz­zat (es­teem). Even dur­ing the up­ris­ing in the Val­ley last sum­mer, both Fazil and Umair would wake up at 5.30 in the morn­ing for free coach­ing at their school, Spring Buds, and then go for their Tong­IlMoo­Do prac­tice in the af­ter­noon.”

Adil Bashir Dar, who won gold in the se­nior boys’ cat­e­gory (64­67 kg), in­sists that sports and pol­i­tics should not be mixed. “For God’s sake, please don’t jux­ta­pose our pic­tures with stone­throw­ing youths to score a po­lit­i­cal point,” says the 21­year­old. “If my in­di­vid­ual per­for­mance in sports is mixed with Kash­mir’s po­lit­i­cal prob­lem, I’d rather leave sports than risk be­ing dubbed as a col­lab­o­ra­tor or traitor by my friends in Kash­mir.”

Zee­shan Dar, who won gold in the ju­nior boys’ cat­e­gory (above 70 kg), says that if you have the sup­port of your par­ents, there is noth­ing that you can­not achieve in life.“With my per­for­mance in Bhutan I have given my par­ents some­thing to feel proud about,” he says. “But I want to go to the Olympics and achieve more in other sports.”


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