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Pakistan eye Gold Coast with little hope

Pakistan’s preparation for the Commonwealth Games has been too slow. By now everything should have been completed and all training camps should have been launched. Sadly, that hasn’t happened

Pakistan eye Gold Coast with little hope
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akistan do not have much chance of winning medals in the Commonwealth Games slated to be held at the Gold Coast, Australia, from April 4-15. An 89-member contingent is expected to be fielded by the country in ten disciplines: hockey, athletics, swimming, shooting, squash, badminton, table tennis, wrestling, weightlifting and boxing.

If we recall the nation’s performance in the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games, it would be realistic not to expect much of the national brigade in the quadrennial spectacle in Australia.

In Glasgow, Pakistan took three silver medals and one bronze. The silvers came through boxer Mohammad Waseem (52kg), Japan-based judoka Shah Hussain (-100kg), wrestler Qamar Abbas (74kg). The bronze was won by veteran wrestler Azhar Hussain, who is also the gold medallist of the 2010 Delhi Commonwealth Games.

Olympian Shah Hussain could have won a medal but judo is not part of the spectacle this time. And boxer Waseem will also be missed as he is now a professional boxer and current WBC flyweight World No 1.

Pakistan may get medals in Australia in wrestling and weightlifting. We have a few fine wrestlers who may give Pakistan some good news at least at the Commonwealth level where the competition is not that tough. The country’s senior wrestler Mohammad Inam in particular is capable of winning gold.

Inam, who is the world champion in beach wrestling, recently got silver for Pakistan in the Commonwealth Wrestling Championship in South Africa where the country also snared ten bronze, six in Greco-Roman and four in freestyle wrestling.

Pakistan will field six wrestlers in the Gold Coast event whose names will be finalised after trials on January 30.

Japan-based Haroon Abid will attend the trials in 97kg. If he wins, he will be part of the squad for the Australia tour. Haroon is the nephew of Jhara Pahlawan and has been taken to Japan by legendary wrestler Inoki of Japan.

National grapplers are scheduled to feature in the Takhti Cup to be held in Iran from February 8-10. After the event, it is highly likely that the ten-member squad of Pakistan stays there for a one-month training.

This will brighten Pakistan’s medals chances in wrestling in Australia. In weightlifting, too, there is hope. Pakistan Weightlifting Federation (PWF) expects a couple of gold medals.

In the 2014 Glasgow Games, Pakistan’s Mohammad Shehzad narrowly missed silver in the 56kg competitions and eventually finished fourth.

Pakistan is expected to field seven weightlifters in Gold Coast Commonwealth Games. The number may come down if some of the target athletes do not perform well in the trials which will be held in Islamabad on February 7.

In athletics, Pakistan will field javelin thrower Arshad Nadeem and Olympian Najma Parveen.

Najma, who is the best all-round athlete of the country, does not have much of a chance, but Arshad can spring a surprise in Australia. The Asian Junior Championship and South Asian Games bronze medallist athlete’s top effort is 78.33m. If he takes it to 82m, he may finish at the victory podium. Arshad had achieved the world No3 ranking in under-20 in early 2016.

In table tennis, Pakistan has decided to field four juniors, two boys and two girls, to prepare them for future. The recently held national championship runner-up Mohammad Rameez, Fahad Khwaja, Hareem Anwar and Fatima Khan are in the touring party. They are 18 and 19 years old.

In badminton, Pakistan has finalised national champions Murad Ali and Mahoor Shehzad and former national champions Hafiz Irfan Seed and Palwasha Bashir. Mahoor from Karachi won women’s singles gold in the international event in Islamabad last year.

But it would be wrong to expect anything stunning from these players as they need more exposure.

The two-member swimming squad (one boy, one girl) will be finalised in a few days. “A committee will sit and finalise the swimmers in two or three days,” a senior official of Pakistan Swimming Federation (PSF) told ‘The News on Sunday’ (TNS).

Pakistan will also field five male and two female shooters. In Glasgow, some of our marksmen qualified for the finals. And this time, too, something amazing is expected from the shooters, particularly, in pistol shooting from the male brigade. There is no chance of a medal from female shooters. The shooting squad is yet to be finalised.

“We have shortlisted 14 shooters and a seven-member squad will be finalised by February 10,” a senior official of National Rifle Association of Pakistan (NRAP) told TNS.

In boxing, too, Pakistan’s prospects are not bright. The country will field four pugilists from among the top performers at the National Boxing Championships which concluded last Wednesday at Lahore.

I would advise Pakistan Boxing Federation (PBF) to send the cream to Australia as the national event, particularly its finals, was marred by controversial decisions from the referees.

The PBF should take steps to ensure such incidents don’t happen in future. I hope the PBF chief Khalid Mehmood will take drastic steps to revive the sport which has been badly suffering for the last few years.

In squash, also, Pakistan has been struggling in international circuit for years and it would be interesting to see how the four players which the country will field in the Commonwealth Games deliver.

Pakistan is also passing through the most difficult phase of its history in hockey. And the Commonwealth Games will only help the players learn how the game has evolved. As per media reports, Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF) has refused to field its side in the Azlan Shah Cup to be held in Kuala Lumpur in early March. It would have been a great opportunity for Pakistan to prepare for Commonwealth Games.

Moreover, Pakistan’s preparation for the Gold Coast spectacle has been too slow. By now everything should have been completed and all training camps should have been launched. The issue with Pakistan is that here event-to-event plan is prepared and that also lacks maturity.

There is also no scheme of providing exposure to the lot in different sports disciplines ahead of the Commonwealth Games. Only national wrestlers may properly get training in Iran for one month. Unless Pakistan takes sports professionally, good results in international circuit will remain a dream.

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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