Weather proofing, equipment and training long neglected
SRINAGAR: Three skating rinks located in capital city Srinagar mostly lie in an abandoned state these days. At Kothibagh Girls’ Higher Secondary School, the unattended skating rink lies in desolation. The rink at Children’s Park near Iqbal Park has also failed to attract skaters. In its vicinity, another rink at Bakshi Stadium caters to young skaters who mostly come for practice post-afternoon. The rink though functions on condition of the weather being favourable for practice.
During bad weather or unrest, skaters refrain from practice sessions. The presence of troops in the stadium further hampers skating lovers from turning up. The Valley’s roller skaters mostly practice in neighbourhood alleys, local gullies, suitable for skating. “The rinks we have cater to figure skating, not speed skating. Unfortunately, no one teaches artistic or figure skating in Kashmir. We need a speed-skating track like is provided in Jammu as well as good coaching to meet challenges at the national level,” says Sarah Ajaz who represented the state in Karnataka at the skating nationals.
President J&K Roller Skating Association Ashraf Dijoo said, “We’re grateful to the government for reviving the Bakshi Stadium skating rink, yet the absence of a roof over the rink hampers skating in bad weather. Most infrastructure available in Kashmir is not as per required standards, and hence skaters have to suffer. We still do not have a speed track for speed skating. Moreover, the lack of expenditure further keeps young talent from touching heights. Ours is a state which invests very less in sports. We need more involvement from the government as well as the public in this regard.”
When contacted, secretary Sports Council Waheed ur Rahman Parra said that they’re taking initiatives to promote the sport. However the lack of resources and funds has made it a slow and lengthy process.
He said that skating rinks have been constructed at Redpora and Gani Memorial Stadium and that a proposal has also been sent for the speed-skating track that needs to be constructed. Apart from this, the council is also trying to arrange for coaches from Jammu to impart training to the local talent. Parra also said that there is an urgent need to promote sports culture in the Valley and that the council is trying its best to achieve this goal.
Winter playground Gulmarg is also home to an ice-skating rink which however is only operational during winter. The outdoor rink has hosted few tournaments so far and lies in much the same desolation as the roller-skating rinks in Srinagar. Its counterpart in Leh attracts ice skaters and hockey players from Ladakh and serves as a perfect naturally-formed destination for ice skating and ice hockey. But here too are issues galore created by long-term neglect. “We do not get trained by professionals, unlike skaters from other states. Whatever we learn is by ourselves. There is no proper coach provided to train us,” says Sadia who won a silver medal for the state in last year’s ice-skating nationals held at Gulmarg. She lists further complaints. “The ice-skating rink at Gulmarg functions only during the mornings and evenings in winter. There is no technology available to keep it frozen through the day. Also the equipment available in the ski shop is outdated. The ice skates available are decades old and fail to meet the latest competition demands. There is nowhere we can buy such equipment from the market also; it has to be imported from foreign countries. We’re helpless at our level.”
In Jammu, by contrast, skating lovers have public rinks at M A Stadium and Peer Kho available to cater to their demands. While skaters from Jammu have achieved laurels both at national and international events, those from the Valley rarely make it even to the national level. This brings into focus the lack of infrastructural and coaching facilities in the Valley. Of all the infrastructure Kashmir has for sports, little is utilised. Skating still remains a rare sport with minimal facilities for it in the Valley. Even with the little infrastructure available, not much is put to use. Very few training sessions are held for skaters in Kashmir. The lack of proper coaching and the underdeveloped infrastructure have led to a huge alienation of skaters from the rinks.