KARACHI: Pakistan Weightlifting Federation (PWF) plans to send five weightlifters to the Commonwealth Games which will be held in Glasgow from July 23 to August 3.
“We plan to field five weightlifters in the Glasgow Games, who will be accompanied by two officials,” PWF Chief Executive Officer Hafiz Imran Butt told ‘The News’ in an interview from Lahore on Saturday.
He said they had sent the names of six weightlifters to the organisers, but one would be dropped from the list.
Keeping in view the tough competitions in Glasgow, a camp of the national weightlifters has been in operation since the beginning of this year at the Punjab University old campus in Lahore.
“We have kept 12 weightlifters in the camp who have been picked on the basis of performances in the National Championship. Mohammad Ilyas Butt and Wahab Irfan Butt are coaching them,” Butt said.
“There are weightlifters from WAPDA, Higher Education Commission (HEC) and Railways in the camp. There is no weightlifter from Army as they had not sent their players to the National Championship,” Butt revealed.
Interestingly, none of the weightlifters who participated in the 2010 Delhi Commonwealth Games is in the camp. “Yes, there is no one from that batch as we have focused mostly on the young blood. This lot is young but it also has got a lot of international exposure and they are well-groomed,” Butt said.
Pakistan will field weightlifters in 56kg, 69kg, 85kg, 94kg and 105kg categories in Glasgow.
Imran said that there was a chance of a surprise finish in three weight categories. “We may click in 56kg, 94kg and 105kg categories. If our weightlifters are able to find a niche in the top-eight then there will be some hope,” Butt pointed out.
National record-holder Mohammad Shehzad, Abdullah Ghafoor (both 56kg), Usman Amjad Rathore and Khurram Shehzad (both 94kg), Haroon Shoukat and Tahir Ahmed (both 105kg) are the prominent weightlifters who are undergoing training in Lahore.
Shehzad won silver medal in the Asian Cup in Tashkent in 2012; Usman Rathore is the gold medallist of 2010 Dhaka South Asian Games; and Haroon Shoukat has got the honour of representing HEC in the World University Games twice.
Butt said that the average age of the weightlifters in the camp is 24 years.
The agonising thing for the PWF at the most critical stage of the preparatory phase for the Commonwealth Games is that the Pakistan Sports Board (PSB) has not yet given them any hint about its support. “We have requested the Board that our camp for the Glasgow assignment should be supported but so far we have got no response from the Board,” Butt said.
However, he was optimistic that the PSB Director General Akhtar Nawaz Ganjera would do something for them. “I hope Ganjera will do something. The next month there is also a chance of a positive outcome in the meeting of the government with the International Olympic Committee (IOC). If a breakthrough is achieved there then the things will get settled. At this stage, we don’t even know about our annual grant and we have not been given even a single penny by the Board so far,” Butt said.
About the Asian Games he said that effort would be made to send at least those three or four weightlifters to Incheon who would deliver in Glasgow.
The Asiad are pencilled in for September 19 to October 4 in South Korea.
Another worrying point is that all the weightlifters in the camp belong to Punjab, which leaves a big question mark on the standard of the game in the other provinces. “You know, there is a proper environment for the sport here in Punjab. Most of the departments, including the most productive WAPDA, Railways, Army and HEC, are based here and there is a strong club structure as around 20 clubs are in operation in Punjab. But we will try to promote the sport in the other provinces as well,” Butt said.
To a query he said that weightlifting needs plenty of money. “In this game you need uninterrupted, quality training for years, which demands a lot of resources. So without the government’s help, it is not possible to achieve the desired goals,” he pointed.