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Hijab-Clad Karate Maestro Appointed First Woman ‘Officiating Referee’ at Asian Games

Shaheen Akhtar, a 4-time National Champion in Karate, to Oversee Top Karate Events at the 19th Hangzhou 2022 Asian Games

Shaheen Akhtar, a 52-year-old Karate maestro, and the first and only woman ‘Officiating Referee’ at the ongoing 19th Hangzhou 2022 Asian Games, is setting a remarkable example for women in sports. A four-time National Champion in Karate, Shaheen has carved her path through the top karate events worldwide, and her latest appointment highlights her dedication to the sport.

Shaheen’s journey in Karate began when she was just 13 years old, as a schoolgirl at the Christ Church School in Byculla. Her passion for the discipline only grew as she pursued her B.Com degree at H.R. College, Churchgate, ultimately transforming her love for Karate into a full-fledged professional career as a ‘karateka.’

Over four decades, she has achieved numerous milestones, from the Youth League to Premier League, South Asian Championships, Asian Championships, Commonwealth Championships, and even World Championship events. Shaheen has earned medals and honors both as a participant and as a referee, making her an iconic figure in the world of Karate.

Shaheen’s new role as an ‘Officiating Referee’ at the Asian Games is a testament to her expertise and dedication to the sport. She will oversee all Karate events for men and women scheduled between October 5-7, with champions from 42 Asian countries vying for gold. In a chat with IANS, she expressed the gravity of her responsibilities, stating, “It’s a very crucial responsibility.”

The pressure of her new role is not lost on Shaheen. As she elaborated, “All countries are coming there and vying for the medals… Any wrong decision on my part can lead to havoc right inside the stadium.” Her role inside the ring will be to ensure that competitors adhere to the rules and maintain discipline during the high-stakes matches.

Shaheen, an established and acclaimed figure in the sport, explained, “My job will be to control these rivals in the ring, command them to obey and adhere to the rules of the games, if they falter then there are levels of warnings, penalties, etc. to rein them in… And all under the watchful eyes of many.”

Her qualifications and experience in the field are unmatched, as she holds the title of the highest and most qualified female referee in both the World Karate Federation and the Asian Karate Federation in India and South Asia.

Beyond her role as an ‘Officiating Referee,’ Shaheen is dedicated to passing on her knowledge and expertise to the next generation through “Shaheen’s Academy of Martial Arts” (SAMA), affiliated with Karate India Organisation. Her ultimate goal is to groom future state, national, and international champions and referees.

Speaking of her aspirations for the future, Shaheen declared, “I hope my long journey inspires the younger generations to take up Karate as a serious and viable career option… India has tremendous untapped potential, and there could be many young champs waiting in the wings to grab their moment of glory given the right opportunity… I am always here to help anybody.”

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