Amid the ongoing Russia – Ukraine war, a positive development for India in the sports field, came from the 15 year old Wushu player Sadia Tariq, who won a gold medal for India, at a junior tournament held in Moscow, recently. The athlete who hails from Srinagar, Kashmir, shares that she wasn’t afraid to participate in the Moscow Wushu Stars championship in the middle of the ongoing war. “For a few days I couldn’t even talk to my family, because the network was hampered because of the on-going war. But I knew my duty towards my nation was bigger than any fear, and I remained brave, gave it my all and won a medal for India. I credit this bravery to my dad Tariq Lone, who motivated me to continue to be in the championship despite the war. He himself is a video journalist who has never shied away from going on difficult reporting assignments in countries like Afghanistan and capturing encounter shoots.”
Tariq began her journey in sports when she was barely 10 years old. Recounting her tale of Wushu in the valley of Kashmir, she says, “My father one day took me to a stadium in Srinagar and told me to choose any sport of my liking to train at. His first choice for me was cricket, but I chose Wushu. I gradually began training and playing professionally.” Was it easy for Tariq, a two-time gold medalist in the Junior National Wushu championship, to juggle homework, school and the situation in Kashmir? “Pehle bachpan se compare kare toh ab valley main, 2019 se bahut zyaada peace hai. We can practice our martial arts now without any tension of violence breaking out any time soon. Mental peace and security is necessary for any athlete to focus on their sport and I want to thank the government for the way that peace is being restored in Kashmir,” says Tariq, who battles with the occasional FOMO of leading a normal teenage life, going on trips and hanging out with friends.
Ask if Tariq would like a movie to be made on her life, and she is quick to say, “Why not? Although I can’t really decide on which star will be able to play my part well. But my story and my struggles from being a girl hailing from Kashmir going on to becoming a champion in martial arts and winning a medal in between an ongoing war, could make for an interesting and inspiring flick,” she says. When not on field or stadium practising for four – five hours a day, Tariq loves to indulge in a cheat meal with her sister every now and then. “When I landed from Moscow to Delhi I got a grand welcome with Dhol, garlands and hugs! It was so much fun. Once I’m back to Srinagar, I’ll celebrate with my family and also visit my principal, friends and teachers who have been waiting to celebrate this gold medal with me,” says Tariq, who is excited to get back to training for the upcoming Youth Asian Games slated to be held in the month of December in China, next.
Wanting Kashmir to become like Haryana in terms of churning out sports champions, Tariq requests the government to make a Wushu academy in the valley for its talented youth. “Kashmir is an upcoming state for the sport talents. Yaha par mere se bhi achhe wushu players hai. All they need is sponsorship and equipments, and Kashmir can become the next Haryana in terms of giving India sports champions,” says Tariq.
Battling the many societal issues that had come in the way of Sadia’s father, while he raised a martial arts champion, Tariq Lone, says, “Always support your kids, irrespective of their gender in pursuing their interests. Had I not supported Sadia in training in martial arts, India would’ve never gotten it’s champion. I never thought that being a girl could limit my child’s pursuit of martial arts in any way. I’m glad to say that Sadia brought a glimmer of happiness in an otherwise tense time and now has become an inspiration to many young girls of Kashmir, who could take up sports in a big way.”