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Two young archers will become new Leh & Ladakh’s first Khelo India athletes

 Archers Nusrat Rehman and Yasmeen Batool will become the first athletes to represent the  Union Territory of Leh and Ladakh, when they step out to take part in the Khelo India Youth Games’ qualifying rounds here on Friday.

The two young girls, who are wild-card entries in the Under-17 recurve event, were super excited to be part of a pan-India competition of this scale; they were even more thrilled when they got to know that they would be arriving for the Games in a special chartered flight from New Delhi, along with some of the country’s most promising athletes.

“Just being here is hugely inspiring. Looking at the kind of equipment the other archers have, the coaches who have come with them… it gives us confidence,” Nusrat Rehman said. “Hard work got us here, and harder work will make us better. And being here convinces us we belong. But there is some way to go yet,” she added.

Nusrat Rehman and Yasmeen Batool are part of a small contingent from Leh & Ladakh, including five other boxers. The duo is here with their coach, Khalida Bano, who made her presence felt at the LNPI course, doling out dry fruits to everybody she was meeting.

“Put your hand out, here is something for you from Leh,” she said, dipping into her purse to pull out handfuls of apricots, dates and almonds. Her two wards, Nusrat Rehman and Yasmeen Batool, stood behind her giggling, unable to hide their childish delight.

For Nusrat, it is the high point of sporting journey that started four years ago, on a whim, in school.

“When I was in Class VI, a teacher came to our school (Islamia Public School, Leh) and introduced archery as part of the course. I took it up. There is an elder cousin and an uncle in my family who are archers, so naturally my interest piqued. Little did I know that it would lead me here, competing at an event with so many athletes from across the country,” she revealed, a smile plastered across her face.

Batool, who is from Kargil, took up the sport two years back, in school. Naturally reticent, she is more academically-inclined, and professed to have watched archery at the Games before. She has her eye firmly on a fellow competitor who has impressed her hugely over the past couple of years.

“Tisha Punia from Haryana is an archer I have been hugely inspired by. She won the gold at the National Championships in 2018 and I am looking forward to watching her here, and
learning something too.”

Bano, when she wasn’t passing around dry fruits, was egging on her two athletes to be more forthcoming and ‘bigging’ up their struggles. She pointed out that despite not being able to train through the year, because of the winter, the girls would be more at home in Guwahati than the others here. “When they train at home, they are clad for a harsh winter. They shoot wearing multiple layers of clothing, gloves and whatnot. This is summer,” she laughed.

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