Islamabad: With her spectacular performances, a 12-year-old figure skater is winning medals at global competitions as well as hearts of fans back home who have named her “Pakistan’s ice princess”.
Mallak Faisal Zafar, a Dubai-based Pakistani girl, secured the top spot in the two-day Basic Novice Girls II category at 24th International Eiscup Inssbruck 2019 (Nov 22-24) in Austria, bringing pride to Pakistan.
“It was a really big competition for me. I am really happy that I won gold. I worked so hard, practiced for months and did my best,” Mallak Faisal Zafar told Gulf News in her first interview. Although she and her parents have spent most of their time outside Pakistan, Mallak says she has a special love for Pakistan. “Pakistan is so beautiful. I would love to go back again to make figure skating and winter sports bigger and popular there, especially among girls,” Mallak said. She visited the country with her parents in 2018 to participate in Pakistan’s first figure skating contest at the scenic winter resort of Naltar in Gilgit-Baltistan.
First to introduce figure skating in Pakistan
“Mallak is actually the first to officially introduce figure skating in Pakistan at the Naltar competition,” her father Faisal Zafar said. “This is what earned her the title of ‘first Pakistani figure skater’.” The parents say she deserves the title as they have confirmed it with sports officials in Pakistan, where winter sports are not popular.
This is where the ice princess comes in. “The response from Pakistan on Mallak’s recent win was fabulous. Our relatives, athletes and people on social media, everyone is praising her performance. I think it will change the way people look at winter sports in Pakistan,” said Faisal Zafar.
Mallak’s passion and parent’s support
Encouraged by her parents to pursue her passion, Mallak started training when she was five years old and entered professional sports at the age of nine. “It is her passion, her dream to become a professional figure skater. We are so proud of our little girl and would support and facilitate her to achieve her goals,” Nesrein Sadawi, her mother told Gulf News. Nesrein, who has a penchant for ice skating, is the one who makes sure her daughter’s practice routine doesn’t change amidst studies and leisure. “As she’s getting on to professional level, Mallak now trains up to 2 to 3 hours a day at least 5 times a week.” She is practicing with a professional trainer, Luda Kalenuk, for the last two years now. Mallak, who considers Russian figure skating star Evgenia Medvedeva her idol, is practicing hard to become a world champion. She is also a member of figure skating club in Spain where she attends camps, exams and participates in contests.
Is it easy to take up figure skating?
Figure skating, one of the most popular sports in the Winter Olympics, needs more than just dedication and practice. Professional skaters usually spend a good amount, somewhere between $10,000 and $40,000 annually, on practice sessions, coaches, choreographers, designers, and above all skates and equipment to qualify for contests such as Olympics.
It is only fair to say that the young ice skating champion owe it to her parents who have dedicated much of their time, money, and support to make her dreams come true. “It is true that this sport requires a lot of facilities. It is not just figure skating, you have to do ballet, gymnastics and other fitness exercises,” says Nesrein. “The cost of making of a young figure skater is high in terms of both time and money but the results are just marvelous! To see her follow her dream, perform and win is priceless” Nesrein said excitedly. She says living in a city like Dubai, which has two ice rinks, has also facilitated them. “Dubai ice rink is actually where she learned and still practices,” she added.
Aim to represent Pakistan in Winter Olympic Games
Mallak who at the age of 12 has won medals in UAE, Austria, Spain, Andorra, conducted training for youngsters and charmed fans with her impeccable performances, has something big on her mind. “My dream is to represent Pakistan in Winter Olympics and other international competitions in future,” Mallak told Gulf News. “Raising the flag of Pakistan in figure skating for the first time to make my country proud is my wish.”
“It is her dream and future goal to raise the flag of Pakistan in Winter Olympics,” her mother said. “We hope that Pakistan will start supporting Mallak and other brilliant athletes, especially young girls, and offer them the sporting platform that they deserve.”