“It was the culmination of 21 years of my career to participate in the Asian Games this year as water sports judge,” said India’s first woman Kayaking veteran, Bilquis Mir. Mir belongs to Kashmir and became a kayaking champion after she fought against stereotypes and criticism from society. This year, she became the first Indian to judge water sports in Asian Games which happened in Jakarta last month.

Mir was part of a three-judge panel comprising other two judges from China and Japan. Talking about her experience to SheThePeople.TV, she said, “It was great to be there as a judge understanding the players and giving feedback on their performance. I am the first woman from India to be in an international referee panel and Asian canoe federation supported me in it. And it was the true sight of women’s empowerment as I got the chance to represent the country at that platform.”

ALSO READ: Meet Iqra Rasool, The Jammu And Kashmir Supergirl

Mir grew up seeing a lack of women referees in the sport. “When I used to play, I never saw women referees in the sport and at that time, I decided to one day become a referee. A lot of people discouraged me, saying that women cannot become referees, but I proved them wrong. Asian Canoe Federation also appreciated my work and said that I was technically sound as a coach.”

When I used to play, I never saw women referees in the sport and at that time, I decided to one day become a referee. A lot of people discouraged me, saying that women cannot become referees, but I proved them wrong. Asian Canoe Federation also appreciated my work and said that I was technically sound as a coach

While she started canoeing in 1996, Mir turned coach in 2010 when she received a coaching diploma from Budapest, Hungary. Talking about why she turned to coaching when she was doing well as a sportsperson, Mir said, “I represented the country and my state until 2009. After that, I thought I could do better in coaching. Hungary and Germany are the strongest nations in water sports. So I decided to study coaching in Hungary. The coach who prepared me for world cup a year before that was the same person who taught me coaching. I was lucky to live and experience the sport at a place where global players and Olympic sportspersons practised.”

Mir came first in the course which had participants from 21 countries. She said that the course helped her in training players of the Indian team in the Asian Games better. The Indian team reached sixth position in the finals in this year’s Asian Games.

More Stories by Poorvi Gupta

Get the best of SheThePeople delivered to your inbox - subscribe to Our Power Breakfast Newsletter. Follow us on Twitter , Instagram , Facebook and on YouTube, and stay in the know of women who are standing up, speaking out, and leading change.