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Moving towards Olympic berths

Fighters Shah Hussain and Saadi Abbas have made rapid progress towards qualifying for the world’s biggest sporting spectacle

Moving towards Olympic berths

Olympian judoka Shah Hussain is moving impressively towards achieving an Olympics seat for the second successive time.

Having featured in the 2016 Rio Olympics after qualifying on the basis of continental quota, Shah has once again shown terrific performances in qualifiers held so far. He would be there in the Olympics if he kept his golden run intact.

A few days ago the 26-year-old son of former Pakistan Olympic bronze medallist boxer Hussain Shah got fifth position when he fell in the bronze medal fight against World No4 of Canada in the UAE Grand Slam, a big event in which global stars competed. Shah fought in minus 100 kilogramme competition. The performance in that event enabled the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games silver medallist to boost his Olympics ranking substantially as he jumped 20 places to 42nd spot. This is the first time in history that any Pakistani fighter has finished at such a decent position in such a highly competitive event.

Shah has left behind his Indian rival Avtar Singh who was 16 places ahead of him before the Dubai event.

Shah has also become Asia’s leading fighter in his weight category and has touched Olympic qualifying mark keeping in view the continental quota.

At one stage it looked that Shah would not be able to qualify for the world’s most prestigious event which would be held in Tokyo, his hometown.

Shah would have to keep his ranking improved and intact. If he misses any qualifying event until May 20, 2020, he will face problems.

He will have to feature in events in Australia, Hong Kong and some other places of the world during the next seven months to strengthen his position further.

But the biggest issue Shah is facing is that of money. He was not sponsored by the Pakistan government for Dubai and before that the event held in Brazil.

He managed to participate in the two events owing to the Pakistan Judo Federation (PJF), especially its chief Col Junaid Alam.

Col Junaid knows that this is the last chance for Shah to qualify for the world’s biggest extravaganza because age is not on his side. Shah Hussain also knows this and is desperately utilising all his potential to make a cut for Olympics.

Shah can also deliver in Olympics if he qualifies. In Rio 2016 Shah crashed out at the very first hurdle but now he is matured and polished and is expected to do better.

It is time Pakistan government provided the needed support to ensure his presence in the Olympics.

Shah trains in daytime and has to work at night to earn money.

He declined offers of nationalities from some developed countries for Pakistan’s sake. If he can sacrifice so much for the country why can’t we back him financially so that he could qualify?

The government should not only sponsor him for featuring in the remaining qualifying events but should also help him have a coach with him.

“He will surely qualify for Olympics,” PJF vice-president Masood Ahmed told ‘The News on Sunday’ (TNS). “He is an experienced fighter and so far has done great. He is a bit defensive like the fighters of Japan; we want him to play aggressively like the Europeans.

“We have been requesting the state for financial support but so far we have not been provided funds to back Shah in his Olympics journey,” Masood said.

“Next year an Asian Championship will be held and there are a few other events and we will desperately try to back him. Col Junaid plans to meet the minister for Inter-Provincial Coordination (IPC) Dr Fehmida Mirza and hopefully some breakthrough will be made,” he added.

Meanwhile, the country’s star karateka Saadi Abbas has also boosted his Olympics chances. But the bad news is that the Lyari-born fighter will miss the Premier League which will be held from November 29 to December 1.

“I have come to Peshawar to prepare for the 33rd National Games and the 13th South Asian Games. I will miss the Spain event because of South Asian Games,” Saadi told ‘TNS’ from Peshawar.

“The issue is that the Madrid event will end on December 1 which is the opening ceremony day of the South Asian Games. I have been told that SAG are more important, so I am in Peshawar,” said Saadi, who represents WAPDA in national events.

“But still there is nothing to worry about. If I miss the Madrid event, I will still have six events and am quite confident that I will qualify for Olympics,” said Saadi, who stands at the 19th spot currently in Olympics rankings. The two-time Commonwealth Championships gold medallist and former Asian champion needs to be among the top five of the world to qualify for the Olympics.

He is experienced, well-prepared and even has got sponsorship. He has a solid qualifying chance.

Shooter Khalil Akhtar is the only one from Pakistan who has qualified for Tokyo 2020.

Alam Zeb Safi

Alam Zeb copy
The writer is a sports reporter at The News International. He may be reached at [email protected]

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