Who is alpine skier Arif Mohammed Khan?
Alpine skier, Arif Mohammed Khan, has become the first Indian athlete to qualify for the 2022 Winter Olympics, slated to be held in Beijing. Arif, who hails from Jammu and Kashmir, secured the coveted berth in an Olympic qualifying alpine skiing event in Dubai. The 31-year-old has represented India in several events, including World Championships. Here, we decode his journey.
Why does this story matter?
India won a total of seven medals at the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics, its best medal haul at a single edition. Javelin Thrower Neeraj Chopra scripted history by claiming only the second Olympic gold (individual) for the nation. Similarly, Arif has an opportunity to enter the record books. He could bring home India's first-ever medal at the Winter Olympics.
Arif made his international debut at 16
Arif made his international debut for India at the age of 16. He took part in a junior international ski federation (FIS) event in Yomase, Japan. He finished 23rd in the giant slalom. At the South Asian Winter Games In 2011, Arif won two gold medals, in the slalom and giant slalom. It is the only edition held so far.
Gold medal at the age of 12
Arif started skiing at competitions when he was 10. He scaled new heights in the following years. At the age of 12, Arif won a gold medal in the slalom in his maiden appearance at the national championship.
What is Slalom skiing?
In slalom skiing, through which Arif booked the Olympic berth, the skier has to ski at more than 90 miles per hour. Since the poles are spaced closely together, the skier has to take quicker and shorter turns. It is faster than the other skiing races. Notably, the sport is present at the FIS Alpine World Ski Championships and the Olympic Winter Games.
Arif has had to toil for his finances
It hasn't been an easy ride for Arif. Like most athletes, he has had to go through financial constraints in order to chase his dream. Arif gets his major funding from his father, Yasin Khan, who owns a ski equipment shop in Gulmarg. Moreover, the former also works as a skiing instructor or a coach in order to make up for the deficit.
Arif gears up for the Winter Games
"Where there's a will, there's a way!" Arif would certainly want to put India on the skiing map, at the impending Winter Olympics. "If I can achieve something, the global skiing community will take note of where I am from. It might make them see India as a potential top skiing destination," he told The Hindu in a recent interview.