And, eventually, a 262-member contingent of Pakistan was finalised the other day for featuring in the 19th Asian Games slated to be held in Hangzhou, China, from September 23 to October 8.
The country will take part in the quadrennial event in 24 disciplines: swimming, archery, athletics, badminton, boxing, bridge, cricket (both men and women), fencing, golf, hockey, kabaddi, karate, rowing, sailing, shooting, climbing, squash, table tennis, taekwondo, tennis, volleyball, weightlifting, wrestling and wushu.
Pakistan Olympic Association (POA) president Lt Gen (retd) Syed Arif Hasan announced the details at a news conference at the Olympic House, Lahore, on Wednesday.
There are 137 male and 53 female athletes who will be showcasing their skills in the assignment.
There is no doubt that in some sports disciplines including wrestling, weightlifting, taekwondo and karate the standard of Asian Games is very high and it touches almost the world level. And it will definitely be a hard task for our players to pull off medals.
Pakistan’s preparation has not been a quality one. Only in a few disciplines the authorities have been able to give foreign tours to their players.
The country’s top karatekas are training in Iran these days. The Kabaddi team has been trained both in Iran and China for some period while taekwondo fighters have also been given extensive exposure in recent months under former world champion Yousuf Karami of Iran.
Two of the four wrestlers are in Serbia these days where they are set to feature in the World Championships.
Shooters and the hockey team also kept getting exposure.
The volleyball team recently returned from the Asian Championship in Iran.
Volleyball also has the support of a foreign coach, a trainer and a video analyst and this is the first time in history that the team has got the trio of foreigners, who are true professionals.
Volleyball and sailing teams were the first to leave for Hangzhou on Thursday night to feature in the Asian Games. Volleyball competitions will begin from September 19 and sailing slots will kick off from September 20.
Pakistan have been placed in the men’s volleyball in Group D with Mongolia and Chinese Taipei. Pakistan will face Mongolia on September 19, followed by their match against Chinese Taipei the following day. Both matches will be held in less than 24 hours time and coach Issanaye is not happy with the format.
There is no chance of a medal in these two disciplines. Pakistan’s men’s volleyball team recently finished seventh in the Asian Championship in Iran.
The biggest medal hope of the country in the Asian Games is the premier javelin thrower Arshad Nadeem who recently won Pakistan’s first ever silver medal in the World Championship in Budapest, Hungary. Arshad managed a throw of 87.82 metre to win the silver.
As Pakistan’s No2 javelin thrower Mohammad Yasir will also be part of the contingent in the Asian Games there will be a real battle between the javelin stars of India and Pakistan.
Neeraj Chopra, the Olympic and world champion, will lead India’s javelin pack which also carries a couple of other good javelin throwers who recorded over 84m in the World Championship in Hungary. Pakistan’s Yasir, who recently won bronze in the Asian Championship in Bangkok, is also expected to run for the medal.
He is working hard and has high hopes.
It is highly expected that both Yasir and Arshad will be handled by coach Fayyaz Hussain Bukhari during the Asian Games.
Arshad’s coach Salman Butt is not going to the Asian Games due to his accreditation issue and so Arshad’s former coach Bukhari will have a chance to handle Arshad also.
Bukhari is imparting training to Yasir who is Pakistan’s No2 with over 79m throw. Bukhari is also Arshad’s former coach and he knows him very well and can handle him with ease.
The preparation in weightlifting and badminton is not ideal. The athletes of these disciplines are undergoing training on their own due to lack of support.
They have spent a huge amount from their pockets to meet their training expenses.
In boxing, too, ideal preparation has not been made as the pugilists trained entirely in Pakistan which is a big minus. Interestingly, the Asian Games is the qualifying round for the 2024 Paris Olympics.
Pakistan boxing coach Arahad Hussain looks optimistic about the country’s chances of qualifying for the 2024 Paris Olympics. Lyari-born Zohaib Rasheed is the biggest hope of the country. Zohaib shot to fame last year when he won bronze medals in both the under-22 and senior Asian championships.It will be interesting to see how he performs.
In men’s hockey, Pakistan always has a medal chance and it depends on how the team tackles pressure. Pakistan are record eight-time Asian Games champions. Although the Green-shirts’ recent performances have not been impressive on a given day anything can happen. It is hoped that the hockey team will deliver in the 12-team event. Yes, the situation of Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF) may have an impact on the team’s performance.
Hope is there in kabaddi as the brigade this time has trained well and hopefully as usual the team will finish at the victory podium.
The biggest issue of Pakistan is finances. Pakistan Sports Board (PSB) has been finding it difficult to tackle the things due to lack of money. A senior official of the Board told me a few days ago that they have no money and they cannot give extra diet to the players undergoing training for the Asian Games. He was right as the country is passing through the most difficult phase of its economic history. Federations also found it too difficult to provide the required exposure to their athletes due to sharp depreciation of the local currency.
Yes, a dozen of top players have been getting IOC scholarships and it is benefitting them in their training. Each player is given 625 US dollars per month which is good enough to meet their basic training needs.
Yes, the Asian Games will be the toughest task ahead for the Pakistani athletes who will be competing with those nations who have invested heavily in their sports industries.
Pakistan’s contingent will proceed to Hangzhou in different groups via different airlines.
Railways top official Hamdan Nazir will accompany the Pakistan contingent as chef de mission, Brigadier (retd) Munir Ahmed of DHA Lahore will serve as deputy chef de mission and Pervez Ahmed, who is also the secretary of Pakistan Gymnastics Federation, will act as contingent secretary.
In the last Asian Games held in Indonesia in 2018, Pakistan won four bronze and this time it is hoped that the nation will be able to improve its performance.