‘Sport keeps young people away from drugs’: Meet Great Khali’s Kashmiri pal who wants to popularize bodybuilding and promote healthy living

Srinagar: Ishtiyaq Ahmad Khan once rivaled the who-is-who of the finitude industry. A gym buddy of ‘The Great Khali’, Khan has now embarked on a new adventure to popularize bodybuilding and keep young people away from drugs in Kashmir.

“Living a disease-free life is a blessing and it is only possible when you are fit. Right now I am associated with the fitness industry and encouraging young people to try bodybuilding as a career,” said he declared.

For 25 years, Khan has organized competitions to promote a healthy lifestyle among young people.

“We organize Mr. North India, Mr. Kashmir and other district-level events. It’s good to see young people coming out and trying their hand at bodybuilding,” he said.

Khan’s bodybuilding journey has been nothing short of a roller coaster ride. From learning judo and karate to training with Great Khali, he has won many bodybuilding competitions in the country.

“My journey began at the age of 15 when I was learning judo to satisfy my appetite for fitness. Later I joined the gym and simultaneously took lessons with the late Ben Weider, who is known as the father of bodybuilding. I used to write him letters and he would reply to help me in my pursuit,” he said.

Later, he was admitted into the National Bodybuilding School of Punjab and during the course he met The Great Khali, then known as Dilip Singh Rana. “So far I have come second in North India Body Building and Mr. Kashmir,” he said.

Khan is currently Chairman of the World Fitness Federation and Powerlifting, India. He trains young athletes at the indoor stadium in Srinagar. “I want our kids to make their mark in sports and compete with devotees,” he said.

Khan believed that young people’s inclination for sports could combat the rise in drug addiction in the Valley. “We wish our youngsters to participate in Mr. Asia and other high-level competitions. Sport instills discipline and keeps young people away from drugs and unhealthy foods,” he said.

Teresa E. Burton