India coronavirus lockdown hampers Kashmiri athletes’ bid for glory

Kashmiri wushu champion Aijaz Hassan practises inside his home in Srinagar, Kashmir, on April 29, 2020. (AP)

The coronavirus pandemic has restricted athlete Afreen Hyder to a small space in Indian-controlled Kashmir where she finds it difficult to do the martial arts routines she needs to keep fit.

The 20-year-old shares a two-bedroom apartment with her parents in the disputed region’s main city of Srinagar. Under the virus lockdown, she is left with only one area where she can practise Taekwondo: the apartment’s hallway.

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“I’ve ended up practising in a place where I dislike doing it most,” Afreen said. “I keep going because my parents are very supportive.”

The coronavirus lockdown for Kashmir’s 7 million residents isn’t the first time she has had to practice her sport at home.

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Last summer she spent months inside her home after India scrapped the region’s statehood and semi-autonomy and imposed harsh curbs on civil rights and communications, including a shutdown of the internet, cellphone networks, landline telephones and cable TV.

Kashmiri Taekwondoin Afreen Hyder practises in her apartment's corridor in Srinagar, Indian controlled Kashmir, April 19, 2020. (AP)

Kashmiri Taekwondoin Afreen Hyder practises in her apartment's corridor in Srinagar, Indian controlled Kashmir, April 19, 2020. (AP)

Athletes are among the people who suffer, said Aijaz Hassan, a wushu champion.

While the virus lockdown keeps people inside their homes, Srinagar’s lone indoor stadium has been converted into a quarantine center.

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“Last year I was able to do my practice at the indoor stadium near my home. But this year the lockdown has forced me and many others like me to practice at home,” Hassan said.

For Kayaker Vilayat Hussain, going out to practice with others is too high a risk. So he made a wooden exercise machine which still doesn’t have proper cables or weights. “It helps me to maintain my workouts even though it is far from what it should look like,” Hussain said.

Kashmiri kayaker Vilayat Hussain practises on a rugged under-construction wooden ergometer at his home on the outskirts of Srinagar, Indian controlled Kashmir, on April 24, 2020. (AP)

Kashmiri kayaker Vilayat Hussain practises on a rugged under-construction wooden ergometer at his home on the outskirts of Srinagar, Indian controlled Kashmir, on April 24, 2020. (AP)

“It is not the first time that I have missed playing in the national games. Last year too we missed the tournaments because of the political lockdown,” he said.

Ultra-marathon runner Hamid Aziz said he practises near his home not only to maintain his fitness but also to fight the coronavirus by limiting the chance of infections.

An ultra-marathon runner Hamid Aziz practises on the roof of an abandoned community hall outside his house in Srinagar Indian controlled Kashmir, on April 21, 2020.  (AP)

An ultra-marathon runner Hamid Aziz practises on the roof of an abandoned community hall outside his house in Srinagar Indian controlled Kashmir, on April 21, 2020. (AP)

“By staying home, we can win this fight against the unknown opponent before facing a known opponent on the track,” Aziz said.

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Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 10:06 - GMT 07:06
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