Kiran Khan – From Protagonist To Pioneer
Kiran Khan is an elite professional swimmer who has represented Pakistani female swimmers on the International swimming frontier for the past fifteen years of her life. Born in December 1990 to an educated and liberal family of doctors and athletes, it wasn’t long before young Kiran was introduced to the undulating current of the blue. Her affection for the deep blue began in her early school days. After she beat her ten years older brother in an impromptu swimming race, Kiran’s father Khalid Zaman, a professional swimmer and coach noticed her potential and began to train her at the age of six. But since there were separate time slots allotted for men and women to swim and she would not have enough time to train properly, so she pretended to be a boy for 4 years in order to get trained properly. Soon, Kiran began to participate in inter-province and major national sports events in the following year.
“It was a challenge when I had to cut my hair short and pretend to be a boy for four years so I could swim like my brother.”
She first came to national attention when she scored 7 gold, 3 silver and 3 bronze on her debut as a national swimmer at the 28th Pakistan National Games in 2001. And has been declared National Junior Swimming Champion 8 times since her debut. Throughout her career, she has won 347 medals, 64 international medals, 53 of which are gold. She has also snatched the title of National Champion 22 times,and holds the honor of being Pakistan’s first International female swimmer and currently holds the honor of being an 8th time International gold medalist and also the first Pakistani female swimmer to win a gold medal in the South Asian swimming championship.
Moreover Kiran also represented Pakistan in the prestigious 29th Olympic Games at Beijing in 2008. Along with managing such a demanding career, she also managed to complete her intermediate education from LGS 1A1 and she is also a graduate from Kean University in BSC (hons) Food Sciences with Fashion Designing as a minor. Kiran Khan is also the youngest Pakistani to receive the Tamgha-e-Imtiaz, an award she is most proud of.
“Pakistan is a male dominated society because we made it, we ourselves have made it difficult for each other. My parents helped me learn to swim; it was not imposed on me, I chose it for myself”
She believes that living in the male dominant society of Pakistan, she was lucky to have received the support and encouragement of both of her parents. Her father initially taught her the freestyle stroke so she could save herself from drowning. The act itself is significant not only to Kiran’s life because it’s what set her swimming career, but because he nurtured a crucial catalyst in the making, the “ Water Baby” as titled by the queen of England.
Kiran has not only empowered herself as a female athlete throughout her journey but continues to inspire the women of Pakistan. It’s a pity how she is often misrepresented by the media and misunderstood by the public eye, her accolades and amazing feats reduced to her relationship status and fake updates of her early retirement. But Kiran’s message is loud and clear; she seeks improved and increased facilities for women is sports, especially swimmers, that are clearly deficient. She believes that nothing can hinder women with the right attitude and encouragement, from realizing and achieving their goals.
“My area of work is continuous, I have been representing Pakistan for the past 15 years.”
Kiran continues to shatter and challenge the stereotypical image imposed and perceived of Muslim and Pakistani women. She trains and coaches younger and upcoming female swimmers in Pakistan and participates in campaigns and initiatives aimed at empowering and inspiring women through interacting with them and sharing her story and hardships she had to face to achieve her goals. Kiran Khan weaves a new and positive narrative of women in the societal fabric of Pakistan and fashions a new identity for Pakistani and Muslim women around the world.
“Achievements and success don’t come overnight,it took me 10 years. Most importantly don’t forget that being an achiever doesn’t mean that you stopped being a woman.”
Written by Khadija Anees