Pakistan’s performance in the 5th Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan, cannot be rated as satisfactory. The national contingent grabbed two gold medals, three silver and 16 bronze to end at the 22nd spot in the competitions in which more than 6000 athletes from 65 nations of Asia and Oceania competed in 21 disciplines from September 17 to 27 at the gigantic Olympic Complex.
Only futsal and equestrian competitions were organised at facilities outside the complex. The rest were held inside the complex which has put Turkmenistan in a commanding position to press for hosting more such events. International sports experts admitted that they had never seen such facilities at one place anywhere in the world.
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. China took both the gold and silver, while the Philippines won bronze in e-sport. This game is rapidly progressing and a Philippines player Mark Louise told me that this has a bright future. “It’s going to become a rich sport. Recently in the US an event of 23 million dollars was held in which I participated. I am going to become independent financially because of this sport,” Louise said.
It will also be part of the next year’s Asian Games as a demonstration sport, a senior official of the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) told me during the Games.
Pakistan’s most medals came in ju-jitsu (1-1-4) and belt wrestling (0-1-8), both of which are non-Olympic disciplines. One of the two gold medals the nation grabbed in the Games came in ju-jitsu. Mohammad Rafiq Siddiq and Shahzeb Nawaz Janjua clinched that gold in men’s duo show.
Ambreen Masih secured three bronze medals. She got two in belt and one in traditional wrestling.
Sonia Manzoor shared three bronze in ju-jitsu while Komal Emmanuel shared 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. The three played so poorly it seemed Pakistan were not capable of competing at this level.
In Olympic wrestling in which Iran won nine gold medals, most of the nations had fielded rookies. Pakistan must groom youngsters if they want to survive in the game.
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. This was after a very long time that Pakistan won a gold medal in this discipline at such a high level. Mehboob was unlucky not to qualify for the 400m final when he was disqualified in the semi-finals for a foul. He led the race but luck did not favour him.
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.
A Sri Lankan journalist claimed that if they had fielded their relay team Pakistan would not have won the gold medal as the timing of the Sri Lankan relay side was much better. For India it was not an important event. They tested most of their back-up squads in majority of the disciplines.
The journalist further said that Sri Lanka’s athletics was on the rise. They send their athletes to the US, Canada and Europe for training regularly. That has worked as they are winning medals even at the Asian Championships. Athletics Federation of Pakistan (AFP) will have to consider this aspect to polish potentially medal-winning athletes.
Our athletes can hardly win a medal if they receive training in Islamabad alone.
In snooker it was a disappointing tour for Pakistan who have produced two world champions and won several other major titles. Pakistan, competing in three events, managed only one medal – a bronze.
“Our cueists played really bad,” former president of Pakistan Billiards and Snooker Association (PBSA) Alamgir Sheikh told a group of reporters at the Ashgabat Airport waiting lounge in an informal chat.
World No2 Mohammad Sajjad grabbed the bronze in 6-Red men’s singles in which Mohammad Bilal lost his second game to exit.
Sajjad exited in the first round in men’s singles snooker competitions while Asjad Iqbal faltered in the quarter-finals of the same event.
Pakistan also lost to little known Myanmar 1-3 in the team event first round.
In swimming it was a total failure as none of the national swimmers could progress beyond the first round. Some of them recorded best timings of their careers, however.
Pakistan Swimming Federation (PSF) is in the wrong hands and its president should be asked by Pakistan Olympic Association (POA) and Pakistan Sports Board (PSB) what he is doing for the promotion of the discipline. Taking medals at the South Asian level is not enough. There is amazing talent in Pakistan in swimming but it needs to be properly groomed.
There was world-class talent in taekwondo and weightlifting in Ashgabat, so it was extremely difficult for Pakistan to compete.
Iran’s Sohrab Moradi made a new world record in 94 kilogramme weightlifting competitions by lifting a total weight of 413 kilogramme. As the Olympic champion achieved the milestone the spectators stood on their feet to salute to him.
It was the first appearance of Pakistan in kick-boxing in which Maaz Khan, the 2010 Dhaka South Asian Games gold medallist in wushu, won bronze. He lost in the semi-finals of the 75kg full contact competitions.
Pakistan had fielded seven fighters in kick-boxing which has been a regular feature of the Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games.
The kick-boxing squad was backed by neither the PSB nor the POA. The fighters trained for a few days at a park in Lahore, a member of Pakistan squad told me in Ashgabat.
Overall it was not a good performance from Pakistan whose population now exceeds 200 million. If we are to develop our sports we need to change our mindset and work selflessly for sports promotion.
Turkmenistan, having a population of just above six million, finished the Games at the top with 89 gold, 70 silver and 86 bronze medals.
China were the runners-up with 42 gold, 32 silver and 23 bronze medals. Iran followed at the third place with 36 gold, 23 silver and 59 bronze medals.