Areeba Khan, a 20-year-old student of Aligarh Muslim University, breaks the stereotype of an Indian girl as she is ranked number two in the Shotgun Skeet Shooting in India. Born in Aligarh’s Alig family, Areeba was encouraged to take part in sports since her childhood. Her father Khalid Khan was a national-level shooter and elder brother Umer Khan was also a member of the Indian shooting team.
Areeba, who is pursuing a Bachelor of Fine Arts in AMU, says that her passion for sports, especially shooting, was inflamed by her father and elder brother.
“My father is the general secretary of the Aligarh District Rifle Association and mentors many young shooters,” Areeba told Awaz-the voice.
She credits her father with playing a major role in building a shooting range in Aligarh. This in turn helped many aspiring shooters including Areeba to train at the home ground.
“Aligarh range on Qasampur Road is the sole official shooting range in the state of Uttar Pradesh. The other one is in Gonda and that is owned by a politician-businessman. Youngsters like me, especially girls, can easily visit Aligarh shooting range and practice for hours. it’s there that I honed my shooting skills,” says Areeba.
In the immediate future, Areeba says her focus is on clearing the national trials to figure in the top three scorers. “We have to face two sets of national trials and the best three scorers are selected for the national team. They are then sent for international championships besides many other national events,” explains Areeba. Shooting trials will start in 2022 and Areeba is determined to make it.
Areeba’s dream is to represent India in the Paris Olympics in 2024 and win medals. “Once I will successfully come through trials and be part of the national team, my goal will be to focus on earning a first or second position in World Championship. That will qualify me in being in the quota for the Olympics. I am training rigorously for it,” says Areeba.
Areeba says her parents encouraged her to pursue sports and get training since she was a child. “They have never paid heed to what others think of me.”
“Since I have shooters in my family, it was natural for Areeba to develop a fascination for this sport. She started taking part in official shooting competitions at the age of 13; her first event was in 2013,” says her father Khalid Khan.
Areeba impressed everyone with her debut in the UP State championship where she won three gold medals in skeet shotgun events. In the North Zone championship in Delhi, she bagged a silver medal in the junior trap event for women. The same year, she took part in the national Shotgun Shooting Championship in Delhi and was honoured with the renowned Shooter of India rank, and thus she became part of the national squad at a very young age.
In 2014, she again won three gold medals in UP State championship and a gold medal in the Junior Skeet event in the North Zone Shooting championship. From 2015, she participated in the national events and won a top slot in the Junior Skeet events.
In 2017, she participated in an international event in Suhl, Germany. Later that year, she won a gold medal in International Shotgun Cup held in Orimatilla, Finland. Since then her rise as a shooter star continues. Her oeuvre boasts of many medals in national and international events. In 2019, she was ranked as the number 1 shooter of India in the women category and currently holds 2nd position in the same ranking.
Khalid Khan says that Areeba missed her Tokyo Olympic chance by a whisker. For an Olympic qualification, a shooter has to attain top 6 quota position and she, unfortunately, couldn’t come in top 6. “But, now she is determined to qualify for the Paris Games to be held 2024 and is preparing for the event with dedication,” he said.
Does being in a small-town like Aligarh, hailing from a Muslim family, and studying in AMU create hurdles in her way?
Her father says, “Our family, like many families in Aligarh, has always been supportive of women taking part in every walk of life, be it sports or other fields. Even my grandmother was a horse rider in her younger days.”
He hopes Areeba achieves greater success and can inspire more girls to take up sports as an activity and a profession.
Source: Awaz The Voice