Pakistan’s recent journey in the 21st Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast, Australia, cannot be termed as satisfactory. The country, which featured in ten disciplines, managed only one gold and four bronze medals, finishing at the 24th spot out of 71 nations and territories which were part of the extravaganza.
Once again, it were the wrestlers who gave respect to Pakistan. The country got one gold and two bronze medals in the discipline. The other two bronze medals were won by the country’s weightlifters.
Mohammad Inam once again made Pakistan proud when he put in an excellent effort to secure gold in the 86kg freestyle wrestling competition by beating the 41-year-old Melvin Bibo of Nigeria in a gripping final. This was the second gold for Inam in his Commonwealth Games career. He had secured gold in the 2010 Delhi Commonwealth Games in 84kg. His younger brother Mohammad Bilal (57kg) and Tayyab Raza (125kg) claimed wrestling bronze.
In the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games, Pakistan clinched one silver and one bronze in wrestling. Had wrestlers been properly backed by the government in their preparations they could have performed even better. It’s time the authorities concentrated on the discipline in which Pakistan has the potential to win at the highest level.
Pakistani weightlifters had returned without any medal from Glasgow four years ago. But this time the two debutants Talha Talib (62kg) and Nooh Dastagir Butt (+105kg) got bronze. Nooh’s total of 395kg which he lifted in Gold Coast is also a Junior Commonwealth record.
Talha lifted Games record weight of 132kg in snatch.
Although weightlifting authorities were expecting gold from these youngsters, the results are still not bad. They at least managed to finish on the victory podium. The good thing about these two weightlifters is that both are young. If they continue to grow in the game they will be sure gold medallists in the 2022 Commonwealth Games.
Boxing has been the biggest disappointment. In 2010 Delhi Games, Pakistan picked two bronze in boxing and in 2014 Glasgow edition the country got silver through Mohammad Waseem. But it was a different story in Gold Coast as out of the four boxers who had been fielded only Gul Zeb (69kg) and Syed Mohammad Asif (52kg) managed wins in their first rounds.
Ali Ahmed (60kg) and highly experienced Awais Ali Khan (81kg) fell at the first hurdle. It was heart-wrenching to see national pugilists facing such humiliation in Australia.
If Pakistan Boxing Federation (PBF) did not take concrete steps, we would not be able to even compete at the regional level in the discipline in which the country once had a strong position, particularly in Asia.
It is necessary to invite all the Olympians and discuss with them how to develop boxing. The PBF president Khalid Mehmood, who is also the secretary of Pakistan Olympic Association (POA), will have to think deeply to choose between the two jobs. I have mentioned in one of my articles that in boxing Pakistan has a strong legacy and Khalid will have to take drastic steps for its revival. Bringing money for this cause is his job as the PBF president.
The Asian Games to be held this summer in Indonesia may prove to be a graveyard for national boxers if we continue to go like this.
In hockey, Pakistan finished seventh in the ten-nation men’s event, beating Canada 3-1 in the outing for the seventh position. The interesting thing about Rizwan Senior’s charges is that they did not lose any game. After being held by little known Wales in their Group B opener, Pakistan held higher-ranked India and England to an identical 2-2 draw before being held by Malaysia to a 1-1 draw in their fourth match which forced Roelant Oltmans’ side to finish fourth in their group.
Keeping in view Pakistan’s pathetic performance in international circuit in recent years, the team’s feat at Gold Coast at least creates hope that if Oltmans continues to focus on his side the brigade may grow as the time progresses.
The players are happy with the way the Dutch coach is dealing with the team. After Pakistan’s victory against Canada, Pakistan captain Rizwan Senior told me that Oltmans had given them a proper structure which was very important.
Pakistan’s next targets in hockey are the Champions Trophy in Holland and Asian Games in Indonesia, both this summer.
It is hoped that Oltmans’ charges learn more and appear a different side in the Asian Games to be held in the Indonesian cities of Jakarta and Palembang from August 18 to September 2.
The team which wins Asian Games hockey gold will directly qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and that is Pakistan’s target.
In athletics, javelin thrower Arshad Nadeem gave Pakistan some hope when in the qualification phase he bettered his national record by pulling off an 80.45m throw to qualify for the finals. But in the finals, he failed to even repeat his qualifying round performance, ending eighth out of 12 competitors with 76.02m effort.
Arshad did not look fully fit in the finals. After the qualifying round, he told me that he had developed serious back pain and in the finals he was seen feeling the same pain.
The seven-member shooting squad, including two women, also failed to do anything big.
Pakistan’s performance was similarly poor in squash, table tennis, badminton and swimming.
Just after Pakistan contingent’s departure for Australia, the Acting Director General of Pakistan Sports Board (PSB) Amir Ahmed Ali had said in an interview that the federations would be asked to explain the performance of their squads in the Commonwealth Games and then some remedial measures would be taken.
I would like to tell the honourable DG that it would not be the solution. Pakistan’s sports need money. The DG should check the PSB exchequer and the requirements of Pakistan’s sports and he will then know why we are not performing well. The government failed to provide suitable training camps or foreign training tours. There is also no proper sports infrastructure and equipment. Besides, in most of the disciplines, Pakistan needs foreign coaches.
The Asian Games in Indonesia this summer is the next target of Pakistan and it would be a wise decision if the government announced camps for the continental event as soon as possible.
In the 2014 Incheon Asian Games, Pakistan grabbed gold in women’s cricket, silver in hockey and one bronze each in boxing, wushu and kabaddi.