Amid the shutdown and restrictions, there is positive news from Kashmir. An eight-year-old girl from a remote area in the Valley’s north has won the gold at the World Kickboxing Championship in Italy.
Tajamul Islam of a rugged village in Bandipora district beat her opponent from the United States to grab the top honour at the sub-junior level of the just-concluded event in the European country’s southern coastal city of Andria.
According to her mentor and coach Fasil Ali, the feat makes Tajamul the world’s youngest kickboxer to win an international gold. “The sub-junior level closes at 14 years of age. Tajamul was the youngest in the category,” he told Hindustan Times.
The stand-up combat sport, which involves kicking and punching, originated half a century ago in Japan — and, within a decade, became popular in the West as well.
The news of Tajamul’s latest achievement went viral on Friday when former chief minister Omar Abdullah of the National Conference congratulated her on Twitter.
Ali has been coaching Tajamul — a native of Tarkpora village — for two years in the backyard of his house. “The girl came to me when she had just passed her upper kindergarten,” he says.
Ali finds Tajamul’s achievement all the more commendable, considering the volatile situation in Kashmir for a quarter century now. “We lack even the basic infrastructure. Yet, she won gold.”
Tajamul’s talent got highlighted last year when she bagged the gold medal in the sub-junior category at the 2015 National Kickboxing Championship in Delhi. That enabled her to gain entry into the Andria world championships, which began early this month.
“The finals was on November 9. Overall, Tajamul won six games,’’ Ali says with pride. As the five-day championship has ended on November 10, Ali says Tajamul will be back in the country on November 14 — incidentally Children’s Day in India.
Already, Tajamul is a celebrity in her Tarkpora village, 65 kms from Srinagar. A student of Army Goodwill School in Bandipora, her father is a driver.
In an earlier interview to PTI, Tajamul said her journey started in 2014 when she joined a local academy that trains young boys and girls in martial arts.
“I was walking near the stadium here when I saw many young boys and girls training. I saw them punching and all that and told my father that I want to join them and he let me,” Tajamul told the news agency in April.
Soon, she won the state championship, and later the national.