When this piece appears on Sunday, majority of the athletes from 71 nations and territories will have reached Queensland to feature in the 21st Commonwealth Games pencilled in for April 4-15 in Gold Coast, Australia.
This is the fifth time that Australia is hosting the quadrennial spectacle in which around 6600 athletes and officials from six continents will showcase their talent in 23 disciplines.
Before this, Australia hosted the Games in 1938 in Sydney, 1962 in Perth, 1982 in Brisbane and 2006 in Melbourne.
Although there are 53 members of the Commonwealth Games Federations (CGF), 71 teams are to feature as a number of dependent territories compete under their own flags.
Since their inception in 1930, the competitions have been held every four years except the 1942 Montreal and 1946 Cardiff editions which were cancelled because of World War II.
Gold Coast 2018 will be the most gender-equal major multi-sports event in history, according to the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF). There will be 133 men and 133 women events and nine mixed/open events.
The world’s prolific sprinter Yohan Blake of Jamaica, the second fastest ever after former sprint king Usain Bolt, is among those athletes who have reached Queensland. This is the first time that Blake will compete in Australia.
Pakistan hockey and weightlifting squads have also reached Gold Coast where they are staying at the sprawling Athletes’ Village. Except an eight-member Pakistan wrestling squad which will proceed to Gold Coast on April 7, our contingent will be part of the April 4 opening ceremony for which Pakistan Olympic Association (POA) had not unveiled its flag-bearer till Thursday. The competitions will end on April 15.
Pakistan is going to compete in hockey, squash, shooting, athletics, swimming, badminton, table tennis, boxing, wrestling and weightlifting.
WAPDA chairman Lt Gen (retd) Muzammil Hussain is accompanying the contingent as chef de mission. POA’s senior official Mohammad Shafiq is acting as General Team Manager, while Pakistan Sports Board’s (PSB) senior official Habib Shah is the contingent treasurer.
There are some reports that Muzammil may be brought as POA chief in its 2020 elections.
WAPDA Sports Board General Secretary Mohammad Razzaq Gill is also part of the contingent as official of table tennis team. Razzaq is lucky as the 33rd National Games were postponed the other week. Otherwise, how would WAPDA prepare for the biennial event in the absence of its secretary? This shows how our sports chiefs handle sports.
Before discussing Pakistan’s chances in the Gold Coast event, it is important to review the country’s past performance in the Commonwealth Games.
In Pakistan’s debut event in 1954 in Vancouver, Pakistan won one gold, one silver and one bronze in athletics and two silver and one bronze medal in wrestling. In athletics Mohammad Iqbal clinched gold in hammer throw, Mohammad Nawaz captured silver in javelin throw and Jalal Khan got bronze in javelin throw.
In wrestling, Mohammad Amin (57kg) and Abdul Rashid (74kg) claimed silver medals and Din Mohammad got bronze in 52kg.
In 1958 Cardiff Commonwealth Games, Pakistan got two silver and two bronze in athletics and three gold and three silver in wrestling.
Javelin thrower Jalal Khan and hammer thrower Mohammad Iqbal claimed silver medals while 110m hurdler Ghulam Raziq and long jumper Ramzan Ali captured bronze.
Wrestlers Mohammad Ashraf (68kg), Mohammad Akhtar (57kg) and Mohammad Bashir (74kg) claimed gold. Shujauddin (52kg), Sirajuddin (62kg) and Ali Mohammad (90kg) got silver.
In 1962 Perth edition, Pakistani wrestlers swept the event by collecting all seven gold and one silver while the other gold the nation got in the slots was in athletics as Ghulam Raziq won 110m hurdles race.
The wrestlers who got gold were: Sirajuddin (57kg), Niaz Mohammad (100kg), Alauddin (62kg), Mohammad Akhtar (68kg), Mohammad Bashir (72kg), Faiz Mohammad (82kg) and Mohammad Niaz (52kg). Mohammad Saeed (90kg) claimed wrestling silver.
In 1966 Kingston Jamaica edition, Pakistan captured four gold, one silver and one bronze in wrestling and three bronze in athletics. Wrestlers Mohammad Nazir (52kg), Mohammad Akhtar (62kg), Mohammad Bashir (74kg) and Faiz Mohammad (82kg) clinched gold, Ikram Elahi got silver in 100kg and Mohammad Saeed captured bronze in 57kg. Javelin thrower Mohammad Nawaz, 110m hurdler Ghulam Raziq and hammer thrower Mohammad Iqbal claimed bronze.
In 1970 Edinburgh edition, Pakistan got four gold, two silver and two bronze in wrestling, one silver in weightlifting and one bronze in boxing.
Grapplers Sardar Mohammad (47kg), Mohammad Saeed (62kg), Faiz Mohammad (90kg), Ibrahim Elahi (100kg and plus) got gold, Nazir Mohammad (52kg) and Mohammad Yaqoob (68kg) captured silver while Sadiq Masih (48kg) and Mohammad Riaz (100kg) claimed bronze.
Abdul Ghafoor (52kg) got weightlifting silver and Samad Mir (57kg) clinched boxing bronze.
From 1974 till 1990, Pakistan did not feature in the Games. Pakistan resumed its journey in the event in 1994 Victoria edition where national boxer Arshad Hussain (60kg) got bronze and wrestlers Mohammad Umar (68kg) and Bashir Bhola Bhala (82kg) claimed bronze.
In 1998 Kuala Lumpur edition, boxer Haider Ali (60kg) claimed the lone silver for Pakistan.
In 2002 Manchester Games, Pakistan got one gold in boxing, two bronze in shooting, one silver in weightlifting and one bronze each in hockey and wrestling.
The boxing gold was won by Haider Ali (57kg). Pakistan got its first bronze in hockey as the discipline was first included in the 1998 Kuala Lumpur edition.
Shooter Irshad Ali got bronze in centre fire pistol while Irshad and Zahid Ali captured the other shooting bronze in centre fire pistol team event. Mohammad Irfan got weightlifting silver.
In 2006 Melbourne Games, Pakistan got one gold, three silvers and one bronze. Weightlifter Shujauddin Malik got gold in 85kg while Pakistan hockey team finished with a silver medal and the other silver was captured by shooter Irshad Ali in 25m standard pistol. Mohammad Irfan got bronze in 76kg weightlifting event.
In 2010 Delhi Games, Pakistan got two gold and one silver in wrestling and two bronze in boxing.
Wrestlers Azhar Hussain (55kg) and Mohammad Inam (86kg) got gold in freestyle wrestling while Azhar also claimed silver in Greco-Roman style wrestling. Boxers Mohammad Waseem (49kg) and England-born Haroon Khan (52kg) picked bronze in their respective weights.
In 2014 Glasgow Games, boxer Mohammad Waseem (52kg), Japan-based judoka Shah Hussain (-100kg) and wrestler Qamar Abbas (57kg) got silver while Azhar Hussain claimed wrestling bronze in 57kg freestyle.
There is very little hope that Pakistan will spring any big surprise in Gold Coast as the country has failed to prepare its athletes properly. There are some medal chances in wrestling and weightlifting in which we have some highly talented youngsters.
The wrestlers underwent training in Iran for two weeks. The six-member wrestling squad includes experienced Mohammad Inam, who is 2010 Delhi Commonwealth Games gold medallist and the 2017 World Beach Wrestling Championship gold medallist. Much is expected of him.
The Iran tour was cut short due to Nowruz festival as the country celebrates it for a week and wrestling clubs are also closed during the period.
“Instead of wasting one week we thought we should go back and train hard in Pakistan,” Inam told ‘The News on Sunday’ (TNS).
Everybody knows Pakistan’s hockey status. The team shouldn’t be expected to do anything big in Gold Coast. Pakistan are in Group B with India, England, Malaysia and Wales, all tough contenders except low-ranked Wales.
Shooting authorities see some chance in trap, double trap and rifle shooting. Javelin thrower Arshad Nadeem, a former World No 3 in IAAF Under-20 rankings, can do something big.
In boxing, too, this time the expectations are not high as the four pugilists picked for the purpose are talented but not in top shape due to a year-long hiatus. They last competed in Islamic Games in Baku in May 2017 and it is not wise to expect anything stunning from them. Boxing coach Arshad Hussain expects some bronze medals from his charges.
The problem is that Pakistan’s sports authorities are not serious. Neither sufficient camps are given to the athletes before any such event, nor foreign exposure. National athletes must be looking to ensure their selection for this year’s Asian Games by performing impressively in Gold Coast.