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Our boxers’ path to Olympics | Sports | thenews.com.pk

Our boxers’ path to Olympics

Busto Arsizio Arena, located in the outskirts of Milan, Italy, is going to host the World Olympic Qualification Tournament 1 from March 3 to 11.

In the men’s seven weight categories, 28 quota places are on offer, four in each weight category while 21 quota places in the six women’s weight categories will be at stake, four each in 50kg, 54kg, 66kg and 75kg, two in 57kg and three in 60kg.

This is not the first time that the boxers will be going to press for the 2024 Paris Olympics seats.

They have already availed themselves of continental qualification tournaments. In Asia, last year’s Asian Games were the continental qualification tournament.

After the Milan event the second World Qualifying tournament will be hosted by Bangkok in May and June.

Pakistan is fielding five boxers in the Milan event, three male and two female fighters, who left from Karachi won Thursday night along with their coach Arshad Hussain, also a former Olympian.

The country’s premier boxer and the Asian bronze medallist Zohaib Rasheed, heavyweight boxer Azhar, Ibrahim, Fatima Zehra and London-based Laura are set to flex their muscles in Busto Arsizio.

These boxers have trained for over a couple of months at the Railways Sports Complex, Lahore.

One cannot call the training satisfactory. Without a marathon foreign training programme, it is not easy for any fighter to prepare well for such a big event.

Pakistan Boxing Federation (PBF) barely managed to provide its boxers training at home. It has been facing financial issues.

We don’t care for sports and this is a big issue.

Nations make long-term plans for their athletes’ Olympics qualification but we have no high goals in sports and just revolve around the South Asian Games which we consider a big target. We will need to think high, we will need to invest in sports and there is no shortcut but a consistent effort will be needed to ensure our players qualify for the Olympics. We should not only think about qualification but we should plan so that we could win medals in the Olympics. I think this is not possible with the way our sports authorities and the state deal with the sports.

Yes, despite so many issues our boxers did well in the training camp at home with not so good sparring partners available to them. It is the passion and bold approach which can help them pull off some surprise in Italy.

We have high hopes from Zohaib Rasheed who has the fire and knack. He will need to qualify for the semi-finals. He lost in the quarter-finals in the Hangzhou Asian Games.

Yes, in that event he had to face the world’s best. He is optimistic about doing his best in Italy. “I am in top shape and have made all out efforts to prepare well by availing myself of the training facilities available here and inshallah will make a top effort to earn an Olympics seat for the country,” Zohaib told The News on Sunday (TNS).

“We underwent two and a half months training at Lahore which was good. I cannot complain that we were not sent abroad for training. Yes, it could have added to our preparation but still it’s good that we at least were provided a good training period during which I worked hard and am ready for the challenge,” said Zohaib, who belongs to a boxing family of Lyari and has to his credit Asian bronze and Asian Under-22 bronze.

Knowing well the standard of the coming event, Zohaib said top competitors of the world will be there.

“The world”s top pack will be there and it will be a tough event. Yes, a little advantage will be there for us as some of the fighters have already qualified for the Paris Olympics through their continental events,” he said.

“Every fighter will be tough, not only those from the Central Asian states but also those from Europe and other continents. But I believe in my ability and inshaAllah through nation’s prayers I will be making my best effort,” Zohaib said.

Pakistan boxers last featured in Olympics in 2004.

Coach Arshad Hussain was also hopeful about Zohaib”s success. “Zohaib is in fine shape and I expect a lot from him,” Arshad told this correspondent.

“I not only expect from Zohaib but also from others as I have worked hard on the rest of the bunch also. It’s a big event but we are hopeful of solid results,” said Arshad, also a former Olympian.

Arshad was assisted in coaching during the camp by experienced Tariq Siddiqui and Nouman Karim, who is a world bronze medallist.

Let’s see how our boxers perform in Italy.

So far five Pakistanis have qualified for the Paris Olympics: shooters Ghulam Mustafa Bashir, Gulfam Joseph and Kishmala Talat, javelin thrower Arshad Nadeem and France-based eventer Usman Khan.

73.alam@gmail.com


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