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Pakistani cyclist Samar Khan reached K2. But media and others sunk low with sexist attacks

Samar Khan just made history by becoming the first Pakistani to cycle to the K2 base camp, the second highest mountain in the world.

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New Delhi: Pakistan has a new feminist sports icon, and no she didn’t return from the Tokyo Olympics.

People are elated that mountain biker Samar Khan, in her 30s, has made history by becoming the first Pakistani to cycle to the K2 base camp – the second highest mountain in the world.

Even Pakistan’s National Information Technology Board came forward to congratulate her.

But a handful of Pakistani men are bent on dismissing her, saying the “unsung hero” of her latest feat is an unglorified porter, who can be seen carrying her bicycle in a photo that is now going viral.

TV personality Mansoor Ali Khan outright dismissed the possibility of cycling to K2, saying in a YouTube segment, “You cannot reach K2 base camp via cycle. Let me make this very very clear,” adding that “as you go further up the track, forget about riding a bike, it’s even more difficult on foot.”

Samar Khan gave it back with the same dismissiveness.

Also read: Pakistan will get its first woman Supreme Court judge but not all Pakistanis happy

Past achievements

This isn’t the first time Samar Khan has broken a record. In 2016, she cycled through the Biafo Glacier in Gilgit Baltistan at a height of 4,500 meters – the first woman in the world to achieve this feat. Then, in 2017 she scaled Mount Kilimanjaro’s Uhuru peak.

“As Mount Kilimanjaro is the highest peak (5,895 meters) and a dormant volcano so it seemed the best target for me to ride my bicycle on [sic],” she told The Express Tribune that yea, adding, “I also thought that by doing so I could bring honour for my country and people. With this aim I went on to achieve what no other girl in Pakistan has.”

But the journey hasn’t always been pleasant.

Sexism and the media

Earlier this year, Samar Khan called out the press for being sexist in their treatment of her as a sportswoman. She also said the media focussed on athletes with larger fan followings.

Dawn Images reported that an interviewer invited Khan onto his show without doing any research and “reduced her achievements to “she rides in all the country”. He didn’t do the same for the male guest, who got a complete introduction.”

Samar Khan grew up in lower Dir in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and learned to love adventure sports when she went to the Army School of Physical Training in Kakul around 2014, and became a certified paragliding instructor.

“People might think I come from a sports family, but when I started action sports, I started with paragliding. That one week turned my life towards sports, and I realised it’s not only for men or for the elite class or western countries. All we have to do is take the first step and set examples for others,” she said in an interview to Indus News last year.

Khan’s activities have been covered by the media extensively, and she’s given several interviews to the local press about her adventure sports journey.

And whenever the media or the men have tried to pull her down, she has not been afraid to speak up either. In an Instagram post, she said she had “no more tolerance for bullshit after going through discrimination all these years!!”

(Edited by Prashant Dixit)

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