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Highlights of her career
When the then seven-year-old Tajamul Islam, entered the ring, she ceased to be a kid, Riyaz-ur-Rahman wrote, six months before the world woke up to Tajamul’s genius. 'Her lean and agile figure, weighing just 25 kg, becomes taut, her endearing little face stiffens, soon acquiring a menacing look. Action follows soon after. Her feet start dancing and her fists fly. Armed with a chest guard, headgear and gloves, her lightening punches and kicks hardly let the opponent respond.'
At age eight in 2016 Tajamul Islam (born 2008) made India proud when she won the World Kickboxing Championship in Italy. She was the first ever Indian in the sub-junior category to clinch a gold medal. Tajamul triumphed not just over opponents, but also against many odds. Here's all you need to know about this wonder-kid.
Kickboxing isn't a sport for the faint-hearted. A combat sport that blends boxing and kicking, you could be at the receiving end of a fierce roundhouse kick or shaken to the bone by a right hook.
1. Tajamul Islam is from a little-known village called Tarkpora in Kashmir's Bandipora district. Bandipora is also the district which recorded the maximum number of schools being burnt during the then ongoing four month unrest in Kashmir valley.
For over two decades now, Bandipora has lived through deadly shoot-outs, burning of schools and unending funeral processions. But in Nov 2016, this town in north Kashmir witnessed a rare, almost forgotten, scene: hundreds of men and women dancing on the streets in joy.
The reason for this outpouring of elation was the arrival of local girl Tajamul Islam, an eight-year old coached by the Army, who struck gold and became the world sub-junior kickboxing champion last week in Italy.
2. Her family isn't very wealthy. Her father works as a driver with the private Hindustan Construction Company, earns a meagre Rs 15,000 to support her mother and four siblings. The gritty class II student of the Army-run Goodwill School in Bandipora trained for two months in New Delhi.
"I have two sisters and two brothers, who are also studying in army school and Kendriya Vidyalaya in Bandipora. Army has been kind in providing good education to the urban population in particular," Tajamul said.
3. Tajamul's natural aptitude for kickboxing was first spotted by the Army Goodwill School in Tarkpora. Tajamul was all praise for the Army. "I am indebted to my parents, coaches, including Rawat sir, Yogesh sir and Dalal sir. Rawat sir really worked hard to prepare me for the international championship. The Army extended huge support to me," she said.
It was only in 2014 that she was sent by her Army school to participate in the districts martial arts championship organized by Faisal Ali Dar, a martial arts instructor and coach. Ali runs a martial arts academy in the town.
But there was no proper infrastructure in place to train for the sport. Tajamul's coach Faisal Dar trained her in an open field with makeshift apparatus.
"She is a brilliant student and has earned a freeship," said her father Ghulam Mohammad Lone, a driver with a private construction company.
Tajamul won the competition but Dar wouldn't let go of her. He called her father and requested him to hand the girl over to him for more training. He agreed but with the condition that all his children will come. Tajamul attended the academy after school hours, with her four siblings from the nearby locality, where her family then shifted from their village.
4. Despite these odds, Tajamul persevered and practiced at least 25 hours a week.
5. Her first major win was at the state-level championship in Jammu in 2015 where she won a gold medal in the sub-junior category.
6. Soon after that, she won the national gold in the same category at the 2015 National Kickboxing Championship in Delhi.
7. It was after the national medal that she was seen as a real hope for the World Kickboxing Championship, and in September 2016, she moved to Delhi to begin training for it. Tajamul left her village Tarkpora, located about 65km from Srinagar, for Delhi with her parents in September to prepare for the championship when the state was reeling under violent protests that started in July after the killing of Hizbul terrorist+ Burhan Wani.
8. Once in Delhi, it was Tajamul's family that paid for her expenses, spending almost Rs 1 lakh. Lone said he spent over Rs 1 lakh on her stay and other expenses during the training period, while the Army paid for the entire family's air travel.
9. At the world championship, the child prodigy won six bouts in five days to lift the trophy in the sub-junior category.
10. Tajamul has now inspired her sister to train and compete in kickboxing. She herself dreams of becoming an Army doctor when she grows up.
11. "I was nervous before going to Italy but my coaches encouraged me. Then I thought about the image of Kashmir and of India and ultimately, I made it," little Tajamul said.
She was felicitated by the Army and received cash reward worth Rs 1 lakh and Rs 50,000 from CM Mehbooba Mufti and governor NN Vohra. Tajamul then started preparing for a kickboxing competition to be held in Bihar. Interestingly, her sister is also competing in the same championship.