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Arif Khan, an Indian alpine skier, is gearing up for a rendezvous with destiny in Beijing

Alpine Skiing - FIS Alpine World Ski Championships - Cortina d'Ampezzo, Italy - February 19, 2021 India's Arif Mohd Khan in action during his first run in the men's giant slalom REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger

When India’s Arif Khan walks into the Beijing National Stadium for the Winter Olympics’ opening ceremony next month, it will be the climax of a ten-year odyssey.

The news: Khan, who has qualified for the Olympics in both slalom and giant slalom, is India’s sole participant at the Games, and his journey to the Games from the snowy slopes of Kashmir’s conflict-torn region has not been easy.

  • Khan was introduced to skiing by his father when he was four years old, and he got professional at the age of eighteen. On a tight budget, he competed in 127 international tournaments for India, mostly in Europe.

What they’re saying: “Being one in a billion and carrying the flag is going to be a great duty,” Khan, 31, told Reuters in an interview. “That will be a motivating experience.”

  • “This sport is not very popular in India,” he stated. You are not provided with financial assistance. That is the most difficult task.
  • “If you want to train for world-class events, you’ll need at least 110,000 euros ($124,740) per season.” You’ll need around 75,000 euros if you’re merely training for the Olympics.
  • “That’s all there is to the budget. You won’t be able to achieve anything if you don’t have this budget.”
  • For an athlete from a country where the minimum daily salary is around 176 Indian rupees ($2.37), those figures indicate a huge challenge.
  • Khan’s profession has largely been supported by his family. Since the 1980s, his father has run a tour company and a ski equipment shop in Gulmarg, Kashmir
  • “We (put aside) a portion of everything we used to earn for my training,” Khan continued. “Tourism is our main source of revenue.
  • “If tourism has a successful year, it can enable me train and travel for three to four months for races.”
  • However, life in Kashmir is unpredictably unpredictable.

What’s going on: Khan’s Himalayan home has long been at the centre of a long-running confrontation between India and Pakistan, with curfews, lockdowns, and other restrictions in place even before COVID-19 exacerbated the situation.

  • “We (put aside) a portion of everything we used to earn for my training,” Khan continued. “Tourism is our main source of revenue.
  • “If tourism has a successful year, it can enable me train and travel for three to four months for races.”
  • “I got four out of five results (to qualify for the Games). I came up short on the sixth one. It could have been done if there had been enough time and money.”

In addition:  This time, Khan is backed by JSW Sports, the sports branch of Indian giant JSW Group, which is covering 40% of his expenses. He claims that the government of Jammu and Kashmir will finance 10% of the cost and that he will cover the remainder.

  • Khan qualified for the Olympics in slalom with a 14th-place result in Montenegro in December, and for giant slalom with a 14th-place performance in Dubai in November.
  • Unrest in Kashmir caused tourists to dry up in the run-up to the 2018 Games, pushing Khan to turn to crowdfunding in a desperate (but ultimately unsuccessful) bid to keep competing.
  • “There was no tourism in the area. We received no help from anyone “he stated “One of the reasons I needed to come up with crowdfunding was because of this, but it didn’t turn out to be very successful.
  • “Without money, I wouldn’t be able to complete my training or keep up with the races,” he added.
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