Kashmir’s female taekwondo athlete aims for Olympics

SCENES shines the spotlight on young people around the world who are breaking down barriers and creating change. The character-driven shorts will inspire and amaze as these young changemakers tell their remarkable stories.

Afreen Hyder, 22, has dedicated his life to the sport of Taekwondo.

The training, lifestyle and routines she follows are all geared towards achieving her goal of representing India at the 2024 Olympics.

“Every day when I wake up I think about representing my nation in the Olympics. It has always been my goal and it is the only thing that motivates me every day. I work hard for it and I know I will get there “, says Afren.

Afreen is currently the highest ranked female taekwondo athlete in India and is ranked among the top 100 in the world. Her passion for the sport began at the age of seven when she took her first taekwondo lesson.

“For me, that’s all”

In his early years, former Afreen coach Atul Pangotra recognized his potential. “She had a sparkle in her eyes, the will to do things and a passion for the sport. I worked hard on her basic techniques and she quickly adapted to training,” says Atul.

“When I started practicing taekwondo, it was just a hobby. When I graduated from high school, I had to choose something for my career, and I chose taekwondo professionally. . I was very clear in my head that I had to do taekwondo and nothing else . For me, that’s it,” she tells Scenes.

Afreen grew up in Jammu and Kashmir, an Indian-administered region, where she says self-defense is a valuable skill for women to learn. “Self-defense is important for women because they face adversity on a daily basis”,

Afren explains. “It’s not just about kicking, punching and defending. It’s also about your confidence. I think confidence helps you avoid getting into trouble.”

Motivation and will

Afreen suffered a devastating blow after being bedridden for three months with a back injury. Her doctors told her she could never practice taekwondo again.

“I think it was the lowest moment of my life because everything I had dreamed of was coming to an end, but somehow, with a lot of physical therapy and willpower, I am back in competition and the injury doesn’t bother me anymore,” she said.

Inspire the next generation

Despite her lack of formal coaching qualifications, Afreen set up a taekwondo academy in 2019 in Kashmir to encourage youngsters to learn more about the sport she loves. “I really wanted to share my knowledge and experience with young people because Kashmir lacks decent infrastructure for taekwondo.”

Hadiqa, a taekwondo academy student, told Scenes that Afreen is her idol.

“I want to become like Afreen, and I want to achieve goals like her. I want to win more and more medals. I want to go to the Olympics. I seriously want to become like her.”

“My mother never discouraged me”

The success that Afreen has achieved in the sport is largely attributed to the support of his mother. “I remember when I started playing taekwondo, there were girls crying because their parents wouldn’t let them play. My mother never discouraged me. She always motivated me,” recalls -she.

Shiraz Malik is a single mother who taught her daughter that she could achieve anything she wanted. “I am proud that my daughter is not just mine but the daughter of our nation. She makes India proud. My dream is my daughter’s dream. She wants to compete in the Olympics and I am sure she will make it,” Shiraz said.

Throughout her career, Afreen has faced negativity despite being trained by some of the best coaches in India and winning several medals in state and national competitions. Her strong will and desire motivate her to keep going. “If you love doing something, it doesn’t have to make sense to other people. If you really love doing something, go out there and do what you love,” she says.

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