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Tanveer Hussain, Umer Nabi the symbols of hardship snowshoe racers face in India

Twenty-four-year old Umer Nabi, who fared better than Tanveer Hussain last year in the World Snowshoe race at Italy, decided not to participate in the championship held in the US this year. He had spent over Rs 1 lakh on his own in Italy and this time he had no money to bear the travel costs. Nabi was placed at the 26th rank in the World Snowshoe Championship, while while Hussain, who is facing allegations of sexual abuse of a minor girl in the US, bagged the 35th rank. Hussain, who was denied visa earlier, however, managed to get it after pressure from US activists and was sponsored by the local people of the Saranac village in New York state where the race was held.

File photo of Tanveer Hussain.

File photo of Tanveer Hussain.

Nabi and Hussain are among the few international athletes from Kashmir. But Hussain works with Jammu and Kashmir Bank to make ends meet, while Nabi trains people on cycling to eke out a living. Their participation in international events was facilitated by the Indian Snowshoe Federation, which itself is facing a shortage of funds to run even the races at the local level in Srinagar, or in the snowy areas of the neighbouring state of Himachal Pradesh. Earlier Saranac mayor Clyde Rabideau had raised money to cover Hussain’s travel expenses.

The president of the Indian Snowshoe Federation, Mir Mudasir, said that they have not received funding from any of the government bodies. “We have not received funding from even Jammu and Kashmir state," he rued, adding that they lack the infrastructure to play the sport. “We have only eight snowshoes which were given to us by the company TSL on a trial basis without any payments. Each shoe doesn’t cost more than $100," he said.

There is a lot of toil required to be a snowshoe racer, but sadly, the sport is adopted only as a pastime in Kashmir. "We are trying to promote the game so that it is adopted as a full-time sport. Through local races like the one which was held in Saranac, we are trying to popularise the game," said Mudasir.

Hussain’s family members recall the tough training he used to go through to take part in the world championship in the US. Hussain’s brother, Yunus Ali, said that they would often see him working extra to make a mark. “He has been running all the time. He was very keen about the game," he said.

Syed Sheharyar, Hussain’s childhood friend, said that he knew him as a very hard-working boy. "Tanveer had only one dream and that was to make Kashmiris proud. We hope that the current incident doesn’t spoil his career and think that he has been framed."

Hussain had earlier alleged that he was denied visa by the US Embassay in New Delhi to participate in the world championship, but it was due to the pressure mounted by some of the US senators that he finally managed to get visa. His manager, Abid Khan, said Hussain was denied visa and it was only on 17 February that he was granted one.

“Though the championship concluded on 25 February, we were in the US for some more days. We had to attend some events and were to deliver a speech at a college when we were informed about the incident by the police." Hussain’s rank this year at the US was not as good as that in Italy and he couldn’t place himself in the first 100. However Mudasir said that it was due to the tough turf. "The competition was tough and Tanveer had not got the adequate time to prepare for the championship,” he said.

The Indian Snowshoe Federation president said that they even lacked players. "We are randomly selecting the people who can do a good running," Mudasir said.

"Any good athlete like someone who runs good can be trained. But we don’t have the resources. The government support is not coming and given the lack of resources it is hard to play for the World Snowshoe Championship next year in Spain," he said.

Mudasir said that the sport was much admired in other parts of the world and could even draw tourists to Kashmir. "It is a sport of great revelry, especially for those tourists who visit Kashmir in the winters. Why should people do only sledging or only run on a tube on snow? They can go for snowshoe-running. It needs to be promoted. The sport is very popular in Europe and other places of the West," he said.

Updated Date: Mar 05, 2017 12:39 PM

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