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Sri Lankan snowboarder Azquiya Usuph blazes trail at Asian Winter Games

Discussion in 'Central & South Asia' started by Gibbs, Feb 22, 2017.

  1. Gibbs

    Gibbs SENIOR MEMBER

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    WHAT THE FOX

    Sri Lankan snowboarder Azquiya Usuph blazes trail at Asian Winter Games
    • February 21, 2017 9:38am
    • by AFP
    • Source: AFP
    [​IMG]
    Teenage snowboarder Azquiya Usuph of Sri Lanka.Source: AFP


    FOLLOWING in the traditions of plucky triers such as Jamaica’s bobsledders and British ski jumper Eddie ‘the Eagle’ Edwards, a Sri Lankan snowboarder has overcome her nerves and a glaring lack of experience to blaze a trail at the Asian Winter Games.

    Despite “freaking out” -- and then falling -- at the start line, 16-year-old Azquiya Usuph took off and hurtled down a mountain at breakneck speed in the women’s snowboarding in Sapporo on Sunday, crashing several times.

    While most of her rivals fearlessly charged down the icy course in a desperate attempt to win a medal in the giant slalom, Usuph’s modest ambition was to make it to the bottom in one piece.

    And though she achieved that goal, the schoolgirl -- who saw snow for the first time in 2015, and admits she is more of a swimmer than a snowboarder -- was disqualified after missing a gate.

    “When I got to the starting gate, I was so scared and I fell over straight away,” Usuph told AFP, after becoming the first Sri Lankan woman to compete at the Asian Winter Games.

    “I fell over like four times and although I missed one of the gates I still made it to the finish,” added the unlikely pioneer.

    [​IMG]
    Azquiya Usuph of Sri Lanka posing with her board in Sapporo.Source: AFP
    “My main goal was to complete the race. I’m actually very happy because I’m new to snowboarding.” Sri Lanka is better known for producing cricketers than skiers, but the sun-kissed South Asian island is developing a winter sports program.

    Usuph’s brave foray came as part of a drive to promote winter sports across the entire Asian region, which will host Winter Olympics at Pyeongchang and Beijing in 2018 and 2022.

    Sri Lankan Olympic officials insist Usuph won’t be the last woman from her country to take on similarly hair-raising challenges.

    - ‘Not everyone can be winners’ -

    “This is just the beginning,” said National Olympic Committee secretary-general Maxwell de Silva.

    “You will see in time that we will be a force to be reckoned with because we have people with very good sporting backgrounds,” he added.

    “Not everyone can be winners but we’re sending a message that Sri Lankans are capable of doing anything if given the right training and opportunities.” At the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympics, tropical Jamaica made headlines by entering the bobsleigh competition, inspiring the 1993 comedy “Cool Runnings”.

    Britain’s Edwards shot to fame at the same Games with his celebrated attempt at ski jumping, a story which was immortalised in last year’s “Eddie the Eagle”.

    [​IMG]
    Great Britain's Eddie the "Eagle" Edwards is pictured in mid-flight at the 1988 Winter Olympic Games in Calgary, Canada.Source: Getty Images
    Usuph, a similarly improbable contender, was selected because she is a talented swimmer, having won a national age-group title in backstroke.

    The first time she saw snow was in 2015, when she was packed off to South Korea to learn how to snowboard.

    “I actually learnt to snowboard really fast, in a span of 14 days, which was kind of surprising,” said Usuph, who has no plans to take up the sport seriously.

    Usuph also spent time at a training camp in Slovenia and regularly surfs to improve her balance and turns.

    She confessed, however, that when she climbed the mountain in Sapporo and stared down the steep slope, the nerves kicked in.

    “I was freaking out a bit,” said Usuph. “I even thought about calling my dad to say that I couldn’t do it. But this was a chance in a lifetime so I just had to go for it.” Her real ambitions lie in the pool, however.

    “Swimming’s really my sport,” smiled Usuph. “I would love to go to the Tokyo Olympics as a swimmer and this has shown me that I can do anything if I train hard enough.”

    http://www.foxsports.com.au/what-th...s/news-story/5cef5e0eea343be18ad6d6567c3f968b
     
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  2. Nilgiri

    Nilgiri ELITE MEMBER

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    Best of luck to the lass...

    No wonder! Slovenia has some top notch skiing/snowboarding venues with excellent coaches too I have heard....along with Italy.

    I've always felt there should be a really crazy multi-discipline event that combines a whole bunch of competition sports (and not just track and field stuff like heptathlon though that is a good start). I bet people like her would rock such stuff.
     
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  3. Gibbs

    Gibbs SENIOR MEMBER

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    She seems a plucky kid and will go places if the right opportunities are given, The problem with countries like Lanka is that lack of opportunity, And even the two sports that does have some kind of support Cricket and Rugby is politicized beyond redemption.. Lankans achieve limited success in the sporting field despite those barriers, If not can imagine their potential

    Classic example is Lankan athletics one time a powerhouse in Asia, Now fecked up by authorities cos they cooked the golden goose
     
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  4. Nilgiri

    Nilgiri ELITE MEMBER

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    I could tell you some pretty similar stories about Hockey in India + Pakistan (went from guaranteed medal to all kinds of minnows beating us)....though that seems to at least have its worst days behind it now (for India at least).

    With India, there is the badminton model now to replicate across other disciplines. It will take a long time however given the reform the whole sport arena requires for lower visibility sports (which is pretty much everything outside of Cricket).
     
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  5. Gibbs

    Gibbs SENIOR MEMBER

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    Thats great to know about Badminton, If i'm not mistaken India also had a good Tennis program that churned out world class players

    About Hockey i'm not so sure mate, The whole game changed after the artificial turf came in to the game, Though both India and Pakistan dominated the grass turf due to their superior skills but couldn't match the strength and stamina that was needed after the artificial turf was introduced
     
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  6. Nilgiri

    Nilgiri ELITE MEMBER

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    Yah but tennis plateaued somewhat in recent years. Its not atrophying like hockey once did at least. Tennis needs a lot more room, equipment and such compared to Badminton (for a sport of 2 - 4 contestants)...so its not surprising that Badminton is accelerating under a much faster pace than Tennis did (under say the Vijay Amritraj and later Paes/Bhupathi peaks).

    It also helps that the dedicated head coach (P. Gopichand) himself won the all-england open (2001) which is the Badminton equivalent of Wimbledon. He is a dedicated committed guy and had a dedicated, committed chief minister (CB Naidu) behind him at a crucial time for original facility, funding and administrative support. Creating centres of excellence behind the path trodden by those that had to overcome the lack of it (by engaging and fully utilising them after they retire) must be the model for the whole region.

    I was wondering if I should mention this in my previous post....but looks like you are aware of it already.

    It definitely was a major factor, no question....but even taking that into consideration....both countries did a miserable job in managing and adapting to the transition as best they could a large part because of bureaucratic incompetence.

    I am glad India is now back in the top 6, threatening the top 5 a lot of the time.....and hopefully Pakistan can join us in this zone soon too.
     
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