Lack of patronage | Sports |

Lack of patronage

Although five of our athletes have so far qualified for the Paris Olympics the question is whether the state will back them onwards as far as their preparation is concerned. It’s a tricky question. So far the state has shown no intent to back them which is highly frustrating.

Pakistan Sports Board (PSB) is facing funding issues and this seems to be a huge impediment which has forced it to keep silent despite repeated requests from the relevant federations for assistance.

Lack of patronage

The country’s premier javelin thrower and Paris Olympics medal hope Arshad Nadeem is training at the Punjab Stadium Lahore. He is staying at the PSB Coaching Centre hostel but it is the athletics federation which is meeting his diet requirements. Arshad has been given a single room, which has a heater and I think it’s good for him.

The Athletics Federation of Pakistan (AFP) plans to send him to England for his right knee treatment and then he is also scheduled to undergo training in South Africa and feature in a few meets in Europe before the Olympics. The plan is good but it depends on how AFP implements it. It’s a big question.

After snaring a silver medal in the World Championship in Hungary last year, Arshad is rated as a high medal hope of the country in Paris. This will be the second time that Arshad will be featuring in the Olympics. He finished fifth in the Tokyo Olympics.

He is now a mature athlete having also participated in three World Championships.

Now we come to shooting. Ghulam Mustafa Bashir, Joseph Gulfam and Kishmala Talat have qualified for the Paris Olympics. What I have learnt from the relevant federation is that the state has least backed it.

NRAP is lucky to enjoy the services of a Russian coach to whom Asian Shooting Confederation (ASC) gives salary and it’s a huge relief for the federation which has so far been brilliant.

Three-time Olympian Khurram Inam, Usman Chand and Farrukh Nadeem also have a chance to qualify as they will feature in the World Cup in Doha in April to press for the Olympics seats in shotgun. Let’s see how they deliver.

I think the state will need to devise a plan to back these athletes in their training, diet and equipment so that they could prepare well for the Paris Olympics.

Seasoned GM Bashir certainly has a medal chance. He won bronze in the World Championship which enabled him to earn direct entry into the Olympics.

Although the event in which he will appear in the Olympics is tough and one cannot say what will happen on a given day he can do anything.

Kishmala is also a fine shooter and she is on the rise. In Hangzhou last year she took the first ever bronze in Pakistan’s Asian Games shooting history. She clinched the medal in the 10m air pistol and more recently in Indonesia she won the Olympics quota, becoming the first ever sportswoman of Pakistan to have won an Olympics seat directly.

So such fine athletes deserve government patronage and without it I don’t think anything big can be achieved.

Eventer Usman Khan is stationed at a much better place. He is in France, undergoing training. He has hired French coaching staff and is spending from his own pocket. I hope the state will consider supporting this athlete who has been doing well for the last few years but has been unlucky. He qualified for the Tokyo Olympics but his horse Azad Kashmir died. He had to revise the qualification and when he was just near the finish line in the Olympics Qualifiers in Australia he met with an accident. As a result, his horse Kasheer died on the spot and he was left critically injured. He was rushed to hospital in a state of coma and underwent treatment for several months. He made a smart comeback and again was able to qualify for the Paris Olympics.

Although we become happy and only wait for our maximum athletes to qualify for the Olympics we should not become content with this achievement only. We should rather work harder and prepare these athletes well so that they can fight for the medals. And this is what our objective should be. If we think high and make an effort to achieve high then we can reach the top.

Our shooters should keep in mind that they need to give a huge breakthrough by winning a medal in the Olympics. Once they do it their life will change. We have seen this in the case of Arshad Nadeem and even weightlifter Takha Talib. Both finished fifth in the Tokyo Olympics and both were honoured with huge cash prizes. Arshad especially turned out to be the most blessed athlete. His entire life has changed. He has got wealth, popularity and is a big brand now. Especially after the World Championship medal his value has increased.

No doubt in Pakistan athletes face huge hardships but we have seen if someone wins a medal at the highest level then things can change overnight. Let’s hope for a magical turnaround. Good luck to the Olympics-bound athletes.


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