THIS year, Pakistan was represented at the Youth Olympic Games 2020 in Lausanne, Switzerland by 16-year-old Swiss-Pakistani Mia Nuriah Freudweiler, an alpine skier in the slalom and giant slalom events. During an interview, the young skier expressed a wish to promote winter sports and human rights in Pakistan by encouraging young girls to pursue their dreams of becoming athletes. She also indicated her own interest in becoming an instructor and teaching young girls in Pakistan how to ski in order to prepare them for national and international competitions. It is commendable that the young athlete from Switzerland aspires to work towards promoting skiing and encouraging women to take up the sport in Pakistan, the birth country of her mother Tania. There is a lot of untapped potential for winter sports tourism in the country and teaching skiing to young girls will no doubt help more women take up winter sports professionally while also boosting the provincial and district governments’ overall efforts to promote winter tourism.
For several years now, international skiing competitions have been organised in the scenic Naltar valley in Gilgit-Baltistan and the Malam Jabba resort in Swat valley. For the past couple of years, the Ghizer valley and Altit area of Hunza valley have also witnessed winter sporting events, thanks to a few local organisations. In fact, there has been enthusiastic participation by local residents including young women. However, the lack of adequate resources, infrastructure, training institutes and sporting equipment — combined with a still uncertain security situation in those areas — pose serious hurdles for the country to establish itself as a leading destination for winter sports enthusiasts. Hopefully, the two winter sports schools, one in Madaklasht (Chitral) and the other in Malam Jabba, inaugurated by the Winter Sports Federation Pakistan last year will bridge this gap by enabling more male and female athletes to pursue their professional ambitions and train for international competitions. Perhaps Ms Freudweiler could also be approached for beginning her coaching career from one of these institutions.
Published in Dawn, January 21st, 2020