GULMARG: An unassuming 14 year young boy from the remote village of Gundmanchhar in Lolab, Kashif Shafi Bhat created history by securing First Position in the Sub Junior, Giant Slalom event in the Gondola Skiing Championship held on 04 March 12, which was organized by the J&K State Cable Car Corporation at Gulmarg.
Mr Rajan Habib Khwaza, Secretary of Tourism (J&K) presented a trophy and a cash award of Rs 15,000/- to Kasif Shafi, who is a student of standard 9th at Army Goodwill School Chandigam.
A total of 150 candidates had participated in the competition, out of which 15 were later shortlisted for the finals. Two other boys from Lolab, Ishtiyaq Mohd Bhat and Bilal Kamal Shah, also secured fourth and fifth positions, respectively in the same event. Also, Khursheed Ahmed Rather of Nutnussa, Kupwara secured fifth position in the Junior category of the Giant Slalom event. Parents and families of these boys rejoiced at their performance in their villages in Lolab, with great enthusiasm and fervour.
The untapped potential of these boys was identified by the Army under Operation Sadhbhavana and they are presently being coached by an Olympian Mr Gul Mustafa Dev, a skier of international repute at Gulmarg.
Lolab is a remote valley which lies in frontier district of Kupwara. In 2011, Army as part of Operation Sadhbhavana, had sponsored 30 candidates from areas of Lolab to undergo Basic, Intermediate and Advance Skiing Course at IISM, Gulmarg. Four out of these with high potential, were later shortlisted by IISM Gulmarg, to undergo advanced training to represent the State at the National and International events. True to their potential, they performed creditably and secured good positions at the National Championship held at Manali in Feb 2012, bringing laurels to the State.
The outstanding performance of these young boys of Lolab, will be a big motivating factor for other youth of this remote area to follow course. Such efforts by the Army are not only engaging the youth in a meaningful manner, but are also channelizing their thoughts and energies in the overall development and prosperity of Kashmir and giving a much needed boost to the State Tourism. Presently, seven young boys of Lolab are undergoing Advance Training in Skiing at the Indian Institute of Skiing and Mountaineering at Gulmarg.
Kashif Shafi and the other three boys Ishtiyaq Mohd Bhat, Bilal Kamal Shah and Khursheed Ahmed Rather from Lolab, who excelled at the Gondola Cup were sponsored by Kilo Force.