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“I started skiing at the age of four years on wooden skis made by my uncle. Our schools were closed in the winter and skiing was the only way to spend our holidays.” -File photo
“I started skiing at the age of four years on wooden skis made by my uncle. Our schools were closed in the winter and skiing was the only way to spend our holidays.” -File photo

Photo by AFP
Photo by AFP
ISLAMABAD: As a young boy, Mohammad Karim taught himself to speed over the snowy slopes of northern Pakistan on home-made skis.

Now he is his country's sole representative at the Winter Olympics.

Growing up among some of the world's highest mountains in the northern region of Gilgit-Baltistan, Karim caught the skiiing bug early -- albeit with none of the expensive kit that many Western skiers grow up with.

“I started skiing at the age of four years on wooden skis made by my uncle. Our schools were closed in the winter and skiing was the only way to spend our holidays,” he told AFP.

“We made skis ourselves and went skiing on local slopes, then later the air force organised a competition in which we learnt more and then started this profession.”

Pakistan's ski federation is run by the air force, which stages annual competitions to recruit new talent, and it was at one of these that Karim was spotted.

Official support is important as Pakistan's winter sports scene has been badly hit by a campaign of violence from Taliban insurgents.

In June last year 10 foreign mountaineers were massacred at the foot of the country's second-highest peak.

As Karim's skills progressed, in 2006 the federation paid for him to go abroad for training.

“I trained in Japan and Austria and competed in various regional and continental events which helped me mature as a skier,” he said.

Exposure to other talented skiers from around the world -- instead of the boys of his village -- opened Karim's eyes to the idea of competing at international level.

“When I went to Japan for the first time in 2006 I saw many other skiers and I thought 'I can do this',” he said.

“Since then it was my dream to work hard and to participate in a major event.”

Now his sights are set on a top 50 finish in the giant slalom.

“I can't wait to ski on the Sochi snow,” he said.

“I know it will be tough among the world's best but I have practised hard and I will do my best to leave my mark at the highest level.”

Karim will be only the second Pakistani ever to compete at the winter Games following his friend Mohammad Abbas, who finished 79th in the men's giant slalom in the 2010 Games in Vancouver.

“I was immensely happy that I was selected, especially because it is such a major event,” he said.

“I did a lot of training and physical exercise and God willing I will come below 50.”

A respectable show in Russia will raise the profile of the sport in Pakistan and, Karim hopes, encourage the government to improve the meagre facilities for skiing.

The Austrian government helped pay for a ski resort in the northwestern Swat valley in the 1980s, but the facilities were torched by the Taliban in 2008.

The air force recently built a chairlift in Karim's home area and he urged the government to do more.

“The roads are unpaved. If the roads are paved and more people have access to the region then this game (skiing) will flourish,” he said.

Cricket-mad Pakistan may not be glued to its TV screens during Sochi. But Karim's parents will be praying their son does the country proud.

Comments (23) Closed

An observer Feb 05, 2014 03:26pm

Good luck Karim. May you do your country proud.

alamgirianz Feb 05, 2014 04:40pm

All the Best.

Desi from Lahore Feb 05, 2014 05:13pm

This is a wonderful story,this young man is realistic in his approach by hoping and working hard towards a top 50 rather than talking big.I know I will be watching the Olympics,but now I will be looking for Karim and that green and white suit

Nurse Feb 05, 2014 05:24pm

May Allah bless you with success!! Good luck!

Alo Feb 05, 2014 06:22pm

Best of luck Karim.

Greetings from a country where people are born with ski on their feet - Norway

Tariq, Lahore Feb 05, 2014 07:15pm

Go! Karim. Go! Just be focused and sky is the limits, with Allah's blessing!

Nadeem Feb 05, 2014 09:00pm

Good luck, Karim.

Subhani Feb 05, 2014 09:50pm

"...Pakistan's winter sports scene has been badly hit by a campaign of violence from Taliban insurgents"!!!

Karim's words are a testament of how human spirit prevails in face of useless & indiscriminate violence! May Allah bless you, Karim & make you a source of national pride. There are many talented Pakistani men & women who can compete in many arena, but can't due to lack of funds. It would be great to see some fundraising efforts for these competitors, early enough so Pakistanis, local & expats (like me) could have time to contribute or fund raise. I would love to see some contact numbers in Dawn. An very patriotic expat(:

US CENTCOM Feb 05, 2014 11:53pm

Congratulations to Mohammad Karim as well as Pakistan. Representing ones country at Olympics is a great honor. We wish Mohammad Karim all the best in the event he is competing.

Abdul Quddus DET- United States Central Command

Wellwisher Feb 05, 2014 11:58pm

Great News!

I would love to see a nice skiing resort like Holmenkollen in pk.Goodluck Karim

BNS Feb 06, 2014 04:02am

Good luck Karim. We will cheer for you. You just try your best and dont worry which number you come at. Even representing your country is an honour itself.

Tariq Rahim Baig Feb 06, 2014 09:38am

Proud son of Gilgit Balitistan, wish you all the best dear Karim.

Ernest Bowen(Australia) Feb 06, 2014 10:04am


ABL Feb 06, 2014 10:16am

Just your participation in Winter Olympics as a sole Pakistan national is a great pride and joy. Bless you and God bless Pakistan!!

Muhammad Feb 06, 2014 10:35am

Go get emm my brother and make your parents and your country proud..May Allah bless you with a great success. Insha'Allah you will win it all.

awais Feb 06, 2014 11:37am

Good Luck Karim, do your best

Khan Feb 06, 2014 01:32pm

Best of luck karim! May you make your parents and nation proud!!

Salman Feb 06, 2014 03:36pm

All the best Karim..... may you raise Pakistan's flag high

Ray Feb 06, 2014 06:33pm

Best of luck Karim! You are the bright spot, and may your wishes come true.

Imran Feb 06, 2014 08:22pm

Go! Karim...... Wish you the very best. I think you are already a winner because getting there in itself is an achievement. You are a living example of people who dream big and put in their heart and effort, get to the mountain top.

When you come back spread the word and bring in more youth who have nothing to look forward to..... Be an inspiration and a role model...

From Canada with love and best of wishes.

sherjagga Feb 06, 2014 08:56pm

May you bring happiness to your parents and pride to your country..ameen

Ali Khan Feb 07, 2014 01:31am

Best of luck Karim...In Sha Allah your dream will come true. Our wishes and support are with you!!!... Go Pakistan!!!

najam Feb 07, 2014 03:30pm

Proud of you.Praying for your success. Hope media covers your event, although I doubt.Good luck and all the best.