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Not a memorable year

2017 was a year from hell for Pakistan sport as the performance of our athletes went from bad to worse in international events

Not a memorable year

The year 2017 was not a memorable year for Pakistan’s sports. In this year, Pakistan took part in two major international spectacles, the Islamic Games and the 5th Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games. The country also featured in various disciplines in different major international assignments.

In the Islamic Games hosted by Azerbaijan in Baku in May, Pakistan failed to win any gold medal and finished 27th out of 54 nations, behind even such nations as Bangladesh, Tunisia, Turkmenistan, war-ravaged Iraq and Syria, Mozambique, Benin, Senegal, Guinea and Gambia.

The country featured in 15 disciplines and bagged nine bronze and three silver medals. Pakistan’s highly experienced karateka Saadi Abbas won silver. The other silver medals were won in 4x400m relay in men’s athletics and men’s tennis team event. Pakistan got three bronze in wushu, two in shooting and one each in wrestling, zurkhaneh, javelin throw and women’s swimming’s 4x200m freestyle relay.

Saadi’s feat was highly impressive as he lost to a fighter from Azerbaijan who was world champion in the 75kg men’s kumite final.

Pakistan completely failed in boxing as none of the seven pugilists managed a breakthrough.

In shooting, an improvement was seen as a couple of bronze medals were won and most of the marksmen qualified for the finals. Returning to international circuit after a long time, Pakistan’s men and women basketball teams’ poor performance was understandable.

In shooting, an improvement was seen as a couple of bronze medals were won and most of the marksmen qualified for the finals. Returning to international circuit after a long time, Pakistan’s men and women basketball teams’ poor performance was understandable.

Pakistan’s men handball team finished seventh.

In men’s volleyball, Pakistan finished third in their group under Iranian coach Hamid Movahedi. After losing their initial games to Azerbaijan and Turkey, Pakistan beat Palestine and Turkmenistan to salvage their prestige.

Pakistan failed in taekwondo, weightlifting and table tennis.

One of the positives of the event was a defiant show from Pakistan’s premier wrestler Mohammad Inam, who lost to Azerbaijan’s Sharif Sharifov, the 2012 London Olympics gold medallist, in the 86kg quarter-finals.

Pakistan missed ace tennis player Aisam-ul-Haq and Japan-based Olympian judoka Shah Hussain Shah. The entries of national judokas had not been sent by Pakistan Olympic Association (POA) for the Islamic Games due to its differences with the Pakistan Judo Federation (PJF).

Pakistan’s performance in the 5th Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games held in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan, in September was also not satisfactory. We grabbed two gold medals, three silver and 16 bronze to end at the 22nd spot in the event in which more than 6000 athletes from 65 nations of Asia and Oceania competed in 21 disciplines.

Pakistan featured in different genres of wrestling (Olympic, belt and traditional), weightlifting, taekwondo, ju-jitsu, tennis, athletics, swimming, snooker, kick-boxing and e-sport which had been included in the spectacle as a demonstration sport.

Pakistan’s most medals came in ju-jitsu (1-1-4) and belt wrestling (0-1-8), both non-Olympic disciplines.

One of the two gold medals the nation grabbed in the Games came in ju-jitsu. Rafiq Siddiq and Shahzeb Nawaz Janjua clinched gold in men’s duo show.

Ambreen Masih secured three bronze medals. She got two in belt and one in traditional wrestling.

Sonia Manzoor secured three bronze in ju-jitsu. Komal Emmanuel got one silver, while pairing with Rafiq Siddiq in mixed duo show ju-Jitsu.

Komal was also part of two bronze medal wins while pairing with Sonia in women’s duo classic and women’s duo show ju-jitsu events.

Beenish Khan secured two bronze medals in belt wrestling.

In Olympic freestyle wrestling, Pakistan’s Mohammad Bilal lost his first fight. Mohammad Inam, the 2010 Delhi Commonwealth Games gold medallist, and Abdul Wahab lost their repechage bronze medal fights. In Greco-Roman, Pakistan’s seasoned wrestler Azhar Hussain, heavyweight fighter Mohammad Umair and Shoukat Ali exited at the first hurdle.

In athletics, Pakistan were able to clinch gold medal when the quartet of Olympian Mehboob Ali, his elder brother Nokar Hussain, Nishat Ali and Asad Iqbal, won the 4x400m relay.

Olympians Rabia Ashiq and Najma Parveen, shot-putter Zeenat Parveen, rookie triple jumper Mohammad Afzal and emerging sprinter Mohammad Shehbaz failed miserably and so did experienced hurdler Mohsin Ali.

In snooker, Pakistan claimed only one bronze through World No2 Mohammad Sajjad in 6-Red men’s singles.

In swimming, it was a total failure as none of the national swimmers progressed beyond the first round.

Pakistan also miserably failed in taekwondo and weightlifting in which world class players competed.

In kick-boxing, Maaz Khan, the 2010 Dhaka South Asian Games gold medallist in wushu, won bronze.

In the 6th Commonwealth Youth Games in Bahamas held from July 18-23, only two Pakistani swimmers, Bismah Khan and Kawas Behram Aga, competed but they failed to impress. Pakistani boxers and tennis players were not given US visa which prevented them from featuring in the competitions.

Pakistan’s volleyball team performed disappointingly in Islamic Games. They finished 12th in the 19th Asian Championship held in Indonesia from July 24 to August 1 when they went 1-3 down against Thailand in the 11th-place game. In the previous event, they had finished tenth.

Before going into the event, Pakistan featured in a three-nation tournament in Doha, involving Oman and Qatar. Then hardly a day before the start of the Asian Championship, Pakistan won a warm-up game against hosts Indonesia who finished fourth in the competitions.

Earlier in May in Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan volleyball team failed to progress to the 2018 World Championship when they were beaten by Kazakhstan 3-2. Pakistan, in their first game of the three-team qualifiers, had defeated Kyrgyzstan 3-2. Kazakhstan then defeated Kyrgyzstan 3-1 to progress to the world championship from central Asian zone.

After a collapse in Islamic Games, Pakistan’s boxers also failed to click in the Asian Boxing Championships in Tashkent.

Pakistan fielded seven boxers in the Tashkent competitions. Out of them, only three were able to win some bouts. Awais Ali Khan of Army qualified for the World Championships but in the global event in Hamburg, he was beaten by Australia’s Clay Waterman in his first light heavyweight fight.

In Tashkent, Awais defeated India’s Manish Panwar 3-2 in the box-off fight to romp to the global event.

Pakistan’s heavyweight boxer Sanaullah, who had lost to Jakhon Qurbanov of Tajikistan in 91 kg quarter-finals, gave walk-over to Fengkai Yu of China in the box-off fight because of injury.

The Balochistan boxer had knocked out Ni Namal Jayaweera of Sri Lanka in the pre-quarter-finals. Gul Zeb was the only other boxer who won at least one fight. Mohibullah, Suleman Bloch, Tanvir Ahmed and Mohammad Asif lost their opening bouts. Pakistan ended at the 15th spot out of 25 nations in the continental event.

In early 2017, Pakistan lost an experienced athlete, the 400m hurdler Nadia Nazir, who died in a road accident near Bahawalnagar. Her five-year-old son Huzaifa also died with her. The 34-year-old Nadia was preparing for the National Athletics Championship which Karachi hosted in early 2017.

She was part of the bronze medalist 4X100m relay Pakistan team in 2006 Colombo and 2010 Dhaka South Asian Games. She was also a four-time national champion.

In snooker, Pakistan did not perform well. In November 2017, the Pakistan quintet of Asjad Iqbal, Mubashir Raza, Mohammad Yousuf, Khurram Hussain Agha and Imran Shahzad crashed out of the IBSF World Snooker Championships in Doha. None of the seven cueists entered the quarter-finals of either the Men’s event or the Masters event.

In September, Mohammad Sajjad, Pakistan’s only participant, suffered defeats in the first couple of matches of the 6-Red World Snooker Championship in Bangkok.

In July, Naseem Akhtar and Haris Tahir of Pakistan failed to qualify for the knockout stage of the IBSF World Under-21 Snooker Championship in Beijing. But Naseem created history by winning the IBSF World Under-18 Snooker Championship in Beijing.

He became the first Pakistani to win the trophy in any youth event at the world level when he came from behind to overpower local boy Peifan Lei of China in a tightly-contested title clash.

In April, Naseem and Haris Tahir succumbed to their respective Chinese opponents in the knockout phase of the ACBS Under-21 Asian Snooker Championship in Chandigarh, India.

After claiming silver in Islamic Games, Pakistan’s top karateka Saadi finished fifth in the World Karate 1 Serie A Karate Championship in Istanbul in September.

In karate, Pakistan got six gold, eight silver and 11 bronze medals in the South Asian Karate Championship in Colombo in August.

It was a happy year for Pakistan’s leading skier Mohammad Karim who qualified for the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics in slalom. Karim had also featured in 2014 Sochi Winter Games.

In wrestling, the country performed impressively. The country’s premier wrestler Mohammad Inam (90kg) and junior sensation Inayatullah (70kg) claimed gold medals, for the first time in history, in the World Beach Wrestling Championship in Turkey.

Early this month, national wrestlers claimed one silver and ten bronze (six in Greco Roman, four in freestyle) medals in the Commonwealth Wrestling Championships in South Africa in mid-December.

Inam clinched silver in 90kg freestyle competitions when he defeated an Indian wrestler in his second fight after losing his first fight against an Indian. Three fighters took part in this category.

In badminton, Pakistan’s Mahoor Shehzad won the women’s singles title in Pakistan International Series Badminton held in Islamabad in November. But Pakistan’s performance in international events abroad was poor.

Pakistan retained silver medal in the Asian Men’s Netball Championship when they lost to India 50-51 in the final in Malaysia recently.

In football, it was again a disappointing year as FIFA suspended Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) for third party interference in October. Due to a conflict between the PFF and its rival group led by Zahir Shah and Arshad Lodhi, Pakistan have not featured in any international event since April 2015. The positive of the year was a tour of world’s iconic figure Ronaldinho and Friends to Pakistan in summer. The touring party, which included England’s Ryan Giggs, played a couple of matches in Karachi and Lahore.

Pakistan men’s kabaddi side had to be content with a silver medal when they went 36-22 down to India in the final of the Asian Kabaddi Championship in Gorgan, Iran, in November.

In weightlifting, Pakistan failed to get any medal in the Asian Youth and Junior Championship held in Kathmandu in July.

However, national weightlifters claimed two gold and two silver medals in the Gold Coast Commonwealth Junior and Senior Championship held in Australia from September 3-9.

Talha Talib and Nooh Dastageer Butt won gold medal and the same duo also grabbed silver. Nooh also created Commonwealth jerk record with a 222kg effort.

Pakistan’s star javelin thrower and former Under-20 World No3 Arshad Nadeem was sent to Mauritius early in 2017 for six months training but he failed to adjust and flew back after a few days.

Alam Zeb Safi

Alam Zeb copy
The writer is a sports reporter at The News International. He may be reached at 73.alam@gmail.com.

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