Insha Asfar was six years old in 2005 when a 7.6 magnitude earthquake struck the northern region of her home country of Pakistan. The earthquake took the lives of 75,000 people and uprooted three million others. The events of that day would start Insha’s life off on a trajectory towards the other side of the world and a skiing career she never could have imagined.
She was at school when the earthquake struck. The building collapsed and trapped her under rubble, causing her to lose her right leg. A year later, TIME magazine sent a photographer to Pakistan to cover the devastation. Surrounded by the grey desolation of a refugee camp, the little girl in a red coat standing on crutches caught the attention of thousands of readers, including a member of the Shriners.
Several weeks later, thanks to the generosity of the Shriners and TIME magazine, Insha and her father were on their first of several trips to the United States to help her get fitted for a new prosthesis. It was on this trip in 2007 where they would first meet Rebecca Lambert and Todd Bent. The Bent’s would sponsor Insha and her father several more times before offering a more permanent home for Insha during the school year if she wanted to continue her studies in the United States. She happily accepted. “I had missed too much school, that it just made sense to stay and go to school here,” said Insha.
In addition to a fist-class education, Insha’s move to the U.S. also allowed her to take advantage of a wide range of other opportunities, including ski racing. She picked up the sport quickly, and her natural ability appealed to her competitive nature.
“I like skiing and competing, because I enjoy winning and being successful,” said Insha.
In 2013, Insha attended The Hartford Ski Spectacular for the first time as part of Disabled Sports USA’s Diana Golden scholarship program. Although she had been on a ski slope before, she spent the week training with Paralympic coaches and high-level adaptive athletes to help her hone her skills. It was her first experience skiing with other adaptive athletes. The experience helped her hone her skills and better understand how to three-track ski. She took that information back to her school coaches, where she trains daily as a member of their non-adaptive program.
The high school senior is on her Berkshire School ski team, which has been the New England Champions the past three years. In addition, she is a member of the National Sports Center for the Disabled team (NSCD is a chapter of Disabled Sports USA), located in Winterpark, CO. She met her coach, Erik Petersen, the Director of Competition at NSCD, four years ago. “Erik is the reason I have been able to do this or even know how to do it,” she said.
Insha focuses on Slalom and Giant Slalom, as Slalom is better for Three Trackers. For her, she primarily wants to control her nerves and just finish. “It’s a mental game for me,” she said.
All of that work has paid off. Insha has excelled on the slopes. She has competed in several NASTAR races, ICC races, and Nationals leading up to the Paralympics. She will be skiing at the 2018 Winter Games for her native country Pakistan and finish in the top ten. “My goal is to go and get the experience at the high level competition.” An interesting fact is Pakistan has never fielded a team for the winter games until now, and she will be the only athlete representing the country in South Korea. “It is both exciting and terrifying at the same time,” she said. Her ultimate goal is to earn dual citizenship and then compete for Team USA at the 2022 games.
Next year though, Insha is looking to go to Dartmouth with the hopes of skiing on their varsity team.
Her recommendation to other skiers: “Don’t be afraid of falling,” she says. “Because you can always get back up.” A mantra she’s proven out time and again.