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Tajamul Islam

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Looks can be deceptive and that holds true for Tajamul Islam, an eight-year-old soft-spoken girl from a remote north Kashmir village.  She made history on 15 November by winning the gold medal in the sub-junior category at the World Kickboxing Championship in Italy. The second grader won a total of six games during the five-day long championship, in which 90 countries had participated. She defeated her rival from the US to become the world champion.

"I am happy that I won and I am proud of it. I want to appeal to all the Indian parents to support their children and encourage them and motivate them towards sports," she said. She had warm words for her coach Master Fasil Ali. Tajamul further said, "I feel really good about this. This happened when my Sir started an academy in Kashmir and I joined it. My brother and sister took me there and then, I started practicing. I participated in the state and national level competitions and won gold in both. Sir helped me a lot in my training...I practiced with all my heart and then I won gold. I used to watch kickboxing on TV and was initially afraid of breaking my nose and what my father would think about it. Then, my siblings started encouraging me and took me to a stadium where I submitted the admission form for the academy. When I first went for state level, I was very scared but my Sir encouraged me and motivated me. I was a bit worried when I went for the World Championship because there were players who had played at the international level before, but then I thought about Kashmir, about India, and how it was about everyone and not just me."

Tajamul dedicated her win to her coach and her parents who motivated and supported her throughout the Championship.

Her coach, Master Fasil Ali, said that Tajamul participated in the world event with support from Kickboxing Federation of India. Tajamul is from a little-known village called Tarkpora in Kashmir’s Bandipora district. Her family isn’t very wealthy. Her father works as a driver with a private construction company, earns a meagre Rs 15,000 to support her mother and four siblings. Tajamul’s natural aptitude for kickboxing was first spotted by the Army Goodwill School in Tarkpora. But there was no proper infrastructure in place to train for the sport. Tajamul’s coach Faisal Dar trained her in an open field with makeshift apparatus. Despite these odds, Tajamul persevered and practiced at least 25 hours a week. Her first major win was at the state-level championship in Jammu in 2015 where she won a gold medal in the sub-junior category. Soon after that, she won the national gold in the same category at the 2015 National Kickboxing Championship in Delhi.

It was after the national medal that she was seen as a real hope for the World Kickboxing Championship, and in September 2016, she moved to Delhi to begin training for it. Once in Delhi, it was Tajamul’s family that paid for her expenses, spending almost Rs 1 lakh. At the world championship, the child prodigy won six bouts in five days to lift the trophy in the sub-junior category.

Tajamul has now inspired her sister to train and compete in kickboxing. She herself dreams of becoming an Army doctor when she grows up. Tajamul won national recognition when she bagged the gold medal in sub-junior category at 2015 National Kickboxing Championship, held at Talkatora Stadium in New Delhi.

Her achievement at the national level got her an entry to the World Championships held in Andria, Italy. She was the first ever Kashmiri girl to do so.

Tajamul said she would continue to play and secure her position again in future. “I will continue to play at national and international levels upto 18 years and thereafter will go to Olympics and will hopefully win there as well.” After winning the world championship she said she would meet Prime Minister, Narendra Modi and urge him to address the pain and agony of Kashmiri people. She said, “I will meet PM Sir and will urge him to find a solution in normalizing the situation in Kashmir. Let us see how much PM loves me.” She said, “I am happy that my parents, coach and others are feeling proud of me. Several people prayed for my win and it is because of their prayers that I won the gold medal.”    

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 1-15 December 2016 on page no. 12

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