By Taniya Dutta
A nine-year-old boy who took up gymnastics after fleeing the Taliban has set a new breakdancing world record – to perform 46 helicopter spins in just 30 seconds.
Pakistani gymnastic student Rizwan Mehsud achieved the feat last month – smashing the previous record of 38 spins in 30 seconds and making it into the Guinness World Records books.
Rizwan, an aspiring professional stuntman, was forced to run away from his hometown of South Waziristan in 2014 after increased Taliban hostilities and a military crackdown.
The proud schoolboy beat the record in the safer city of Dera Ismail Khan, where he now lives with his family.
Rizwan said: “I worked very hard to improve my skills and I am extremely proud of my achievement.
“I have broken the record, which was previously held by an Indian.
“This was only possible because of the blessings of my parents and my teacher Irfan.”
Rizawan fled his native village with his parents and relatives after the Taliban launched their deadliest attack on an army-run school bus in Peshawar, killing 141 people including 132 students.
The hostilities and attack left a strong impact on little Rizwan, who was left terror-stricken.
To help him face his fears, his father Dunia Khan, a driver in Dubai, sent him to learn gymnastics and the youngster was encouraged to engage himself with sports to gain confidence.
His got support from teacher Irfan Mehsud, who is also a world record holder and runs the gymnast academy Mehsud Lions in Dera Ismail Khan.
Irfan said it was a big achievement for Pakistan that a young boy like Rizwan has beaten the record – and said the feat would bring positives to the rest of the world.
He added: “When I started the academy the atmosphere here was very tense.
“A lot of people from our tribe had migrated here from such a tense situation back at home.
“I started this academy to keep children of our tribe away from militancy and give them a healthy atmosphere.
“Our tribe is infamous because both Baitullah Mehsood and Hakiumullah Mehsood – the heads of the Pakistani Tehrik-i-Taliban – belonged to it.
“Today I have more than 50 students in my academy who learn gymnastics.
“But my students will showcase the positive and soft image of our tribe that has earned a lot of negativity.
“They are well trained to break all the world records.”