Interview with Pakistan’s Youngest Junior Olympian “Noorena Shams”


Islamic Republic Of Pakistan is a home to a lot of athletes who have represented and raised the white and green flag on numerous occasions throughout the world. They have done so, because of their undying will to succeed, whatever the circumstances are. A few days ago, I had the privileged and honor of interviewing one such star athlete who – just in her teenage – has achieved an ample amount of success at such a tender age. This star athlete goes by the name of Noorena Shams.

This delightful and modest individual has achieved greatness and is still going strong, Ma shaa Allah.

She has successfully represented Pakistan internationally as well as nationally in different sporting as well as educational and vocational events. She holds the record of being the youngest Pakistan and South Asian athlete to take part in the Junior Olympics. She has also been named in the list of “50 Most Influential Women Of Pakistan.”

The interview is as follow:

Saad Shafqat (SS): Assalam o Alaikum Noorena Shams. I hope you’re doing well?

Noorena Shams (NS): ALHAMDULLAH I am perfectly fine. I hope you will be in good state of your health too.

SS: Tell us about yourself. What defines Noorena Shams?

NS: Noorena Shams is a Pakistani first and human later. If I die I won’t be a human any more but my identity will last forever and that is being a Pakistani. I am really very passionate about my country and I work without any greed for my homeland. I am hard working and I believe nothing is possible without hardwork.. The word competitive defines Noorena alot. I take every competition really seriously and the virtue of determination is the key to my success. I am a really straight forward human being. I am emotional and sometimes lazy too.

SS: Tell us about your ethnic background, your upbringing and your family life?

NS: I was born to a father who was in politics. He( late) was a leader and a business man. My mother was a house wife and she now looks after my father’s business along with my younger brother. We have faced a severe downtown after my father’s death. We were respected when he was alive, we were loved when he was alive. Everything ended when he left. A father’s death opens doors of criticism for society when his daughters want to step ahead in their lives, we faced the same. We faced uncountable pressures during that particular time. We changed our background with our deeds. Those circumstances produced 6 individual stars and their strong mother. My older sisters are political workers and working hard for the community like my father. The oldest one is the holder of masters in sociology and the sister after her is studying MBBS side wise with politics. I have two younger brothers and a sister as well and all of them are going well in their respective fields of interest. We are six siblings and one proud mother. I belong to Lower Dir, Khyber PakhtunKhuwa.

SS: So how is the experience living in the KPK?

NS: People of KPK are like pineapples. They are harder from outside and wear crown of pride but they are sweeter from the inside at the same time. They are the most supportive people I have ever seen. I feel secure when I’m home. I live in a society where you find people who are unjust and also there are people who are hospitable and helpful in every way. Like when I cycle through the streets of  Peshawar I do get followed by teenagers who moan and laugh but there are people as well who stop and let me pass. There are people who make at sure I reach safely to my hostel at night. There are people who support me on every stage of my life. They all are from KPK.

SS: From a rigid childhood to a teenage superstar, how does it feel to be known throughout the world now?

NS: To be honest when I received your message for the interview I went in a total shock. I did not know people in Karachi knew me too. I have achieved alot but I was never noticed and I was never used to such attention and still I am not. When I get featured in different newspapers I keep them with myself. When I receive messages from superstars I stare at my screen for a while and cry. I can’t act like a superstar. I am not one. I am a Pakistani like you.

SS: Was it a tough journey to be at the place where you are now or you just went with the flow?

NS: My life? It’s just like a roller-coaster ride. I have to go deep down and touch the ground with my nose to bounce back to touch the sky. During the Taliban era, when I was living in my home town I had a feeling that death will capture us any time but we were saved and I believe we were saved for a purpose in our lives. I emerged without a male supporter. It was not easy at all. I was not harassed, but being potrayed as a nuisance by your sports fellows and coaches is no less than harassment. I never knew being beautiful can be a curse. I never knew how I used to see every single person like my father never wanted to act like my father. I have faced so many things which I could not tell at home in a fear that my mother will ask me to quit it. I had to work as a cartoonist to buy racket and shoes for myself. I had to work tirelessly to reach to the point where I stand today. I have slept outside the courts when I had no accommodation abroad. I had to work as a photographer to earn for my national tours. I used to sell my gifts to get my balls and other stuff. I am struggling nobody really knows because I never open up. For my coaches and my family my life is smooth but I know what I have to go through to be in the top lists.

SS: Being a sportswoman, how important health and fitness are for you?

NS: Being fit is really important. It is the key to your success. It is the most important step of the ladder of your hardwork.

SS: Do you follow any specific diet plans to keep yourself in shape?

NS: I eat alot. My friends call me motu even though i am not fat at all but when I stop workout I see the blubber expanding from their positions. I strictly follow a diet plan which helps me alot to be the most fittest teen in my circle.

SS: Talking about your accolades, how does it feel to be the “Youngest Pakistani ” to represent Pakistan in cycling?

NS: The feeling is immense, words are not enough to describe the feeling. When I came back with that silver medal, to my disbelief I saw nobody to greet me at the airport. I was not made to realize how big of an honour it was. I kept it for more than 6 years in a box until I was featured in a news paper. I was praised and I was shocked to see the reaction. I still am amazed to hear that I am the only Pakistani and South Asian to have this prestigious honor.

SS: A cyclist, an under-19 cricketer and now you’re a quality Squash player? How are you able to do all this?

NS: No one in my family was attached to sports. It was considered as a hobby. It wasn’t innate. No one was a sports freak. I started playing sports after my father’s death because I felt the need of it. It came through hardwork and nothing else. “Hardwork beats talent, when talent does not work hard.” Even today I can’t hold a bat properly and it makes me laugh at myself that I was known as one of the best players across Pakistan. I became one of them because I worked harder and it showed results at that time.

SS: Recently you represented Pakistan at a squash event In Hong Kong, tell us more about that?

NS: I made it to the top 40 in Asian Rankings through that. I was happy that I was the only Pakistani girl to participate in it but it made me sad as well at the same time when I saw thirty girls participating from Egypt. I feel that there is the absence of push in Pakistan towards this sport that’s why we don’t excel.

SS: Apart from playing sports, do you have the same passion to watch sports? Any particulars you seem to like?

NS: I go crazy when I am watching cricket. I am known as the “Facebook commentator.”

One day I stopped tweeting and posting whilst watching a match, so my friend’s mother called to know if I was okay or not? Ten houses apart my neighbour knows that he does not have to turn on the tv because he can listen to what is going on. People in my circle knows about all the matches because of me.

SS: Apart from sports, what are your other hobbies? I’ve heard that you’re quite a sketcher?

NS: I love to debate and I have represented Pakistan in different international debating championships. I have been declared as all Pakistan debating champion for two years. I love to paint and sketch which made me win youngest artist of the year Guljee awards twice.

SS: Do you watch movies? If yes,any particular favorites?

NS: I do not watch movies. I have only seen MARRY KOM when I needed motivation.

SS: Do you have any problems which you want to highlight through our platform?

NS: There are millions of problems and I think you would have to take another interview for that. Let it be lack of sponsors or a correct platform of exposure. Let’s be the problem solvers and not be the one who brags about it.

SS: What’s the secret behind miss Noorena Shams’ outstanding success at such a tender age?

NS: Having a super mom, down to earth nature, strong belief, helping nature and of course ALLAH.

SS: What would be your message to the youth of Pakistan?

NS: Dear Pakistani’s, kindly stop complaining about your country and start doing something for it. The way your grandparents need support when they get older our country which is merely  67 years old needs our support too. We have to fix everything no one else is going to do that. Opportunities never come home you have to go out for them. Being united will make us stronger. Stop making your country dependent on others. MAKE PAKISTAN AND BE PAKISTAN.