Olympics: A Pakistani's journey from home-made skis to Sochi

Published: February 5, 2014

Pakistani skier Mohammad Karim runs during a training session in Islamabad. PHOTO: 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 skiing 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.

On the Sochi flight

On Wednesday, Karim left for Sochi, Russia to participate in the Winter Olympics.

Karim is the only Pakistani player participating in giant Slalom event.

This event is scheduled to take place from February 7 to 23, in Sochi, Russia. As many as 98 events in 15 winter sport disciplines will be held during the Winter Olympics.

Chief of the Air Staff, Pakistan Air Force, Air Chief Marshal Tahir Rafique Butt, who is also the Patron-in-Chief of Ski Federation of Pakistan (SFP) expressed his best wishes for the young skier and hoped that he would perform better in the winter Olympics and bring laurels to the nation.

It is worth mentioning that Muhammad Abbas (Pakistan Air Force) was the first Pakistani Skier to represent the country in 2010 Winter Olympics.

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Reader Comments (19)

  • A Malik
    Feb 5, 2014 - 5:35PM

    WIshing Karim the very best! It’s a great sport and I long for that day when we have a fully fledged resorts in Pakistan.

    Recommend

  • Hasan Gilani
    Feb 5, 2014 - 5:44PM

    You already are a winner my dear brother…. Hats off to your courage and gallantry…. Pakistan is so proud of you…..

    Recommend

  • VOC
    Feb 5, 2014 - 5:45PM

    Best of luck to the unsung heroes!

    Recommend

  • Queen
    Feb 5, 2014 - 6:15PM

    All the best Karim, the nation will be praying for your victory. Recommend

  • Zog
    Feb 5, 2014 - 6:50PM

    These are such inspiring stories

    These citizens are amazing role models….

    We’ll done Karim we will all be rooting for youRecommend

  • naeem khan Manhattan,Ks
    Feb 5, 2014 - 8:14PM

    Good luck to you Karim, our best wishes are with you.Recommend

  • Feb 5, 2014 - 8:18PM

    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 CommandRecommend

  • roadkashehzada
    Feb 5, 2014 - 9:42PM

    All the best.
    Go and raise our flag. we dearly need sportsmen heroesRecommend

  • Feb 7, 2014 - 1:06PM

    he can never win
    there no way of wining like tht
    look at his fat
    he looks fat :/
    and yea and for those who will reply and say somthing bad u dont have to im just sharing my opinion

    some1 better should join a person who is fit and runs faster and has broken school records a person like that not a person who thinks hes fast u guys think he can beat bolt no way

    Recommend

  • Imran Khan
    Feb 7, 2014 - 2:29PM

    Good luck Karim, from London, England!!!!Recommend

  • AFTAB ELLAHI
    Feb 7, 2014 - 7:37PM

    Proud of you my countryman i feel so happy for a Pakistani to be in such a big event. As a Canadian Pakistani i wish you all the best. If you ever come to Canada please call me and you are most welcome to stay with me since i live minutes away from lakeridge ski resort.

    Recommend

  • Urooj
    Feb 7, 2014 - 9:10PM

    Read a very rude comment above. I seriously do not think, its wise of me to respond to that comment and I would be better off if I just ignore it, but for some reason I am still compelled.

    Someone calling Karim fat and unfit. I do agree that it does not look like he has the top notch physique and training required to successfully compete in this event, but you should appreciate his efforts and passion that he has put in to represent a country that meagerly invests in such talent and sport. Do consider the kind of background he is coming from.

    Happy to see the rest of the encouraging and positive comments. Good luck Karim. Thanks for representing Pakistan and pioneering new paths and possibilities for future talent.

    Recommend

  • Sadia Shahid
    Feb 8, 2014 - 2:54PM

    @sajid:
    Hez not going to run.. he would be skiing.. i wont be saying anything bad but it actually is dumb to comment without knowing or without even reading the article

    Recommend

  • Sameed Ahmed
    Feb 9, 2014 - 1:05AM

    I am so proud for this brother even I am supporting Canada, I am still proud to see that pakistanis are talking part in this :) jea Pakistan!

    Recommend

  • sara
    Feb 9, 2014 - 8:24PM

    In response to the negative comments above, firstly there is no date as to when that picture was taken of Karim, it my have been taken long before the Olympics. Also he is wearing a track suit, you cannot see his physique clearly and the angle that the photo is taken At is not very flattering. If you saw him carrying in the flag during the opening ceremonies you would be able to see that he was in great shape! At least the guy made it to the Olympics and is representing his country, whomever is speaking negatively about him should probably take a look at themselves and see how much they weigh! Lol you haven’t made it to the Olympics so just be proud of the guy And keep your rude comments to yourself.

    Recommend

  • Sab
    Feb 11, 2014 - 5:21PM

    I wish him the best of luck at the Olympics and in opening Pakistan’s eyes to this wonderful sport! They have excellent mountains for it in Northern Pakistan and Kashmir, it would be nice to see it take off there. It may also indirectly help with the conflict in those areas by bringing some positive traffic through and giving people access to something they can enjoy. Best of luck from Canada!

    Recommend

  • JZ
    Feb 15, 2014 - 10:44AM

    He might surprise the world with some Great strides towards showing his real ski skills. We pray for your success.

    Recommend

  • Akhter Bhatti
    Feb 17, 2014 - 9:38AM

    I wish you all good lucks ,, u r the only player to represent pakistan in sochi,, v r with u

    Recommend

  • Jawad
    Feb 19, 2014 - 3:07AM

    Best of luck Karim. In our eyes, you have already won.

    Recommend

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