You are an Olympic swimmer and one of the first international female swimmers representing Pakistan. Tell us how your journey has been. How did it all begin for you?
It all began at a very young age; I never knew I was going to be a swimmer. Sport runs in my family and as a kid, I use to love being in the water, but it was actually synchronised swimming that attracted me towards swimming, therefore I ended up becoming a swimmer instead of a synchro swimmer. Back then, I was interested in different sports and not just swimming. Then one day, my brother and I were racing and my dad saw us out of the blue. From that moment onwards, there was no looking back! At the age of six, I entered my first competition, but I made my debut in 2001, at 10 years of age, which gave me the boom and I became the golden girl of the millennium. I’ve had a few ups and downs but I’m enjoying my ride.
What, according to you, has been your greatest achievement to date?
Well, I believe that would be, when I participated for the first time in an international competition held in Iran in 2002 and won a gold medal for Pakistan. Also, in 2007, where I won a gold medal against India; these were the most awaited victories for all of us at that time, especially since I was the first person to do so!
How did you feel when you were awarded with Tamgha-e-Imtiaz at the age of 19?
I was thrilled to be given such an honour as it is usually awarded to people after they have spent decades in their service to Pakistan and I never knew, that I would be fortunate enough to obtain it during my ongoing career. I remember I was out of words – completely speechless at the event, as people kept on asking me whether I had also come on someone’s behalf to receive this accolade because I was so young and they were all grandchildren of the honourees; so it was quite interesting to get it in my teens – history made once more!
“When I am in the water, the biggest motivation for each and every muscle of mine is the green and white flag”
You have been representing Pakistan Army at national level. How has this experience been?
Representing Pakistan Army makes you feel like you’re a part of them. It’s been nine years, they have taught me to be strong and brave, and my job is to swim no matter where I am – the goal is to make my team win.
What does it mean to be Pakistani for you?
For me, being a Pakistani is more than an honour, prestige, creed or nationality. I would say, that I am blessed to be born in this country. This country gave me an opportunity to show the whole world, what Muslims really are, in spite of what the world is stereotyping about Muslims and Pakistanis. Pakistan is my motherland, I was born a Pakistani and will die a Pakistani. When I am in the water, the biggest motivation for each and every muscle of mine is the green and white flag. All the laurels I have achieved; all the love that I got, I would have never gotten it anywhere else.
What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced in your career so far?
It’s always been the training, which has been challenging. Whether it’s the extreme weather conditions or the limited amount of facilities we are provided with, I find it a grim challenge to convince myself for the training. I’m never scared to compete; when I train, I train insane.
What recent initiatives has the government taken to make this a popular sport?
Well, truth be told, they are more focused towards cricket and the war between cricket versus other sports is not stopping anytime soon. The government is not that supportive towards anything I believe.
Do you reward yourself when you reach goals? If so, which goals and how?
For us athletes, rewards come in the form of medals and appreciation, which makes me happy and everyone else around. The satisfaction from victory is the reward we receive!
Who is your all-time favourite swimmer?
Michael Phelps, Ian Thorpe and Pieter Van Den Hooganband.
What other sports do you enjoy other than swimming?
I enjoy working in my office and swimming academy and training others. On the other hand, I also play golf and badminton, which I adore the most. I’m a gym junkie and a fitness freak – so don’t be surprised if you spot me at the gym!
What are your favourite go-to meals and snacks?
I am a sucker for junk food. I’m a total foodie – I can’t live without food! But my all-time favourites are Subway, chewy snack bars and coffee milk.
How can we promote swimming as a career in Pakistan for both males and females?
We can promote this activity by encouraging kids to get into sports from a younger age. Nowadays, everyone is mostly glued to their TV or tablets. Swimming should be introduced properly in schools and college clubs. Competitions should be organised so that they learn to build up their athlete spirit.
We, at Daily Times, consider you one of our national heroes. Who are some of yours?
I’m so overwhelmed and humbled. My all-time heroes would be Imran Khan, Jahangir Khan, Samina Baig and Arfa Karim. These people are legends – no one is like them and I believe no one ever will be!
Swimmer Kiran Khan is one of the first international female swimmers of our country.
A Young Champion
At just 12 years of age, Kiran Khan came into prominence when she won seven gold and three silver and bronze medals at the 28th Pakistan National Games in 2001.
Honoured At Home
Khan is the proud recipient of the Tamgha-e-Imtiaz (Medal Of Excellence) which is the fourth-highest decoration given to any civilian in Pakistan based on their achievements. Altogether, she holds 337 national gold medals, which also include the Pakistan Youth Icon Award and the Benazir Women’s Excellence Award for the Best Women of the Year 2009.
Khan has won many national and international awards for her skill and performance. Some of them include the Laurel of Excellence Award, the SAWM International Award 2008, Best Female Swimmer Award, honoured at the International Women of the Year ceremony and the Global Shirzanan Ambassador of 2015. She holds 53 international medals.
Article by Daily Times