There are many fascinating stories in sport that make you sit up and take notice. The spirit to defy odds and pursue your passion does not come easily to everyone. For Maria Toorpakai Wazir, it was all that kept her going.
Toorpakai was born in the conservative South Waziristan region of Pakistan. It is an area that is supposed to be the headquarters of the ultra-conservative Taliban.
Maria though chose to defy the Taliban. Her love for the sport of squash drove her to take a bold step. She began training for the game and pursued it for 16 years, all the while being dressed as a boy. She would participate in tournaments under the name of Genghis Khan.
In 2006, she turned professional. From then on, she dropped the garb and began competing as herself. The Taliban took note and termed it “UnIslamic” for a woman to pursue such a profession. She spent the next three years locked up in her home. The love for squash though kept brewing inside her all that time.
Toorpakai would return to the court in 2009. Two years later, she moved to Toronto for better training opportunities.
In 2012, after nearly a decade-long struggle, Maria achieved what she had dreamed of all those years ago. She climbed up to become Pakistan’s No 1 female squash player.
She has since released an autobiography of her journey and is an active advocate for women’s rights in Pakistan.