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The struggles of our athletes

Despite facing many problems, Pakistani athletes continue to give good news to the nation every now and then

The struggles of our athletes


Despite facing many problems, Pakistani athletes continue to give some good news to the nation. The other day Pakistan’s highly talented shooter Khalil Akhtar defied all odds, tearing apart the best from around the world in a World Cup in Brazil in the 25-metre rapid fire pistol event to blast his way into the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Khalil, who belongs to Army, became the first Pakistani shooter to enter the most prestigious extravaganza of the world directly. Some other shooters also aim to make a cut for Tokyo 2020.

Now it’s time to create the best training opportunities for Khalil so that he could press for a medal in the Olympics.

Meanwhile, Pakistan’s premier judoka and Olympian Shah Hussain experienced a huge boost in his world and Olympic ranking following his performance in the World Judo Championships which concluded in Tokyo a few days ago.

The 26-year-old Shah jumped 26 places in his world ranking to the 73rd spot from the 99th. He leaped 43 places in Olympics ranking to the 57th spot from the 100th.

Shah, who also featured in the 2016 Rio Olympics, took a golden start to his global journey last week in Tokyo when he downed Tajikistan’s Saidov Saidzhalol in the -100 kilogramme first round.

However, in the pre-quarter-final Shah was undone by Dichev Daniel of Bulgaria by claiming ippon.

Shah had entered the world event after working extremely hard. His family sources say that he developed an elbow injury which created problems for him during the fights. His father, Olympic bronze medallist boxer Hussain Shah, through a video clip has requested the government to back his son during his qualifiers.

“My son is moving ahead very impressively and he not only can qualify for Olympics but he can also win medal for Pakistan as the Olympics are being held in Tokyo which is the hometown of Shah Hussain,” he said.

Shah qualified for the 2016 Rio Olympics through continental quota, which made him the first judoka of Pakistan to compete at the Olympics.

Pakistan’s top karateka Saadi Abbas has reached Tokyo to feature in Karate 1 Premier League slated to be held from September 6-8.

Saadi’s Olympics ranking is 18th and he needs a massive push to make a place in top five. He is capable of doing that and he has been working hard to achieve the milestone. With loads of experience, the Dubai-based athlete is to feature in many qualifiers in the next few months which would decide his Olympics fate.

He has the support of a private sponsor, but he also needs help from the government. He also needs a coach during his challenging assignments.

The other day during an interview with me Pakistan’s premier weightlifter Talha Talib also expressed his desire to play in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

He said that he has featured in a couple of Olympics qualifying events and would need to take part in four more events. He was both optimistic and pessimistic about achieving his Olympic goal. He is confident that he can do anything in his weight category. But he feels that Pakistan Weightlifting Federation (PWF) has no state support which is the biggest hurdle in the way of weightlifters to take part in most of the qualifying events during the next few months.

Talha has been impressive, particularly in snatch, and is also trying to improve in clean and jerk also which is the only way to perform in international circuit with grace.

He has won one gold and one silver in the Commonwealth Junior Championships and has to his credit a bronze in the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games. He is facing financial problems and mostly spends his salary which he gets from WAPDA on his training.

I don’t know why the ministry handling sports is so insensitive when it comes to the support of Pakistan’s leading athletes.

Why should Talha spend money from his salary on his training? It is the job of the state to back such great sportspersons when they are struggling to make a place in Olympics.

Nooh Dastgir Butt is another highly talented weightlifter who can press for an Olympics seat. But apparently due to no support these two weightlifters may face a huge impediment in their way in the next few months which may dent their Olympics chances. But it is a good thing that both these weightlifters are very young and bright future and medals at the major stages still await them. They should not lose heart.

Facing the same issue, Pakistan’s top javelin thrower Arshad Nadeem has also set his eyes on the Tokyo 2020 seat. He needs to improve just two and a half metre if he is to qualify for the Olympics.

Having won a bronze medal through a throw of more than 82m in Asian Games in Indonesia last year, Arshad is set to represent Pakistan in the World Championships in Doha in the first week of October. If he manages a throw of 85m he will qualify. This boy from Mian Channu has tremendous potential and already has been an IAAF Under-20 World No3, a feat which he achieved in 2016 when he won bronze in the South Asian Games in India.

In wrestling we had two prospects in seasoned Mohammad Inam and rookie Inayatullah but they, too, are struggling because of lack of government support. Inayat, already having won bronze in Youth Olympics, can surely qualify for 2024 Olympics if the state invests in the Peshawar-born grappler who is the son of a wrestler.

We have great talent in wrestling and weightlifting and effort should be made to invest heavily in these two disciplines for ensuring bright future.

Last week I wrote a piece on boxing and I reiterate here that we should field our full-fledged squad in all eight weights in the Olympics qualifiers which will be conducted by a task force formed by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) after suspending the world boxing governing body (AIBA).

Now we come to the rest of the sports affairs. Pakistan’s volleyball team’s chances of appearing in the Asian Championship which starts in Tehran from September 13 are not bright. If the federation gets money from somewhere then participation can be possible.

Because of funding issues, Pakistan is yet to hold camps for the 13th South Asian Games to be hosted by Nepal in Kathmandu and Pokhara. Other nations have already started their preparations.

In the next few days FIFA will announce its normalisation committee which is expected to start functioning from the first week of October. It will help start Pakistan football activities once again.

The committee will have to run day-to-day affairs of Pakistan’s football, conduct club scrutiny, hold elections at the district and provincial level before conducting the PFF elections. The committee will have to do these things within nine months. FIFA officials interviewed people nominated by the two factions last month at Lahore.

Let’s hope things go in the right direction. Pakistan’s football needs to be revived as soon as possible. During the last four years the footballers have suffered a lot. The discipline cannot bear any more troubles.

Moreover, Pakistan Olympic Association (POA) should try its best to resolve the issue of athletics, judo and cycling federations. If the issues were not resolved it would not be possible for the players of these disciplines to feature in the 33rd National Games slated to be held in Peshawar from October 26 to November 1.

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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