Our sports are a total mess. For years we have been seen fielding our top players in the Olympics Qualifiers with the aim to make it to the world’s most prestigious event but to no avail. The other day we saw our top three wrestlers who miserably flopped in the World Wrestling Championship in Serbia which was also the first qualifying round for the next year’s Paris Olympics.
The country’s seasoned wrestler Mohammad Inam, Youth Olympics bronze medallist Inayatullah and Mohammad Bilal exited at the first hurdle in Belgrade.
Similarly, we also make efforts in the other individual sports disciplines but it proves to be just an effort and nothing productive is seen.
Yes, in shooting we have been impressive and two of our shooters have already qualified for the Paris Olympics. In javelin throw, we will see Arshad Nadeem flexing his muscles again in Paris. He is now a real world class athlete.
We also will see Melbourne-based equestrian Usman Khan who has already qualified for Olympics by achieving MER at the FEI four-star event in Ireland recently.
In wrestling we have the potential but we are never consistent when it comes to the big events.
Mud wrestling is our strength and we need to develop in mat wrestling if we are to return to the Olympic fold.
We last featured in wrestling in the 1960 Rome Olympics where we earned bronze and since then we have been making efforts to return to the fold.
Now the world has changed and we will need to make a solid strategy to enable our wrestlers to qualify for the Olympics.
There is a simple rule. Unless we produce world and Olympic champions we will need to train our wrestlers on foreign soil. You cannot produce world champions by imparting training to your wrestlers only in Pakistan. A few days training on foreign soil off and on will not be the solution. We wasted such a precious talent because of our poor policy of handling wrestling. By holding camps in Pakistan we think that we have done a major job and we will give a major breakthrough to qualify for the Olympics. It is not possible. India too at one stage was like Pakistan. However, it produced Olympic and world medallists in several individual sports disciplines because of its shrewd policy. It kept its leading packs in different disciplines undergoing training abroad for months where their athletes learnt a lot by playing with the world’s top crop. India’s athletes kept moving across the world receiving top-class training and now we see they are in a much more comfortable position and have been winning medals at the major stages.
Pakistan on the other hand is too weak as a sports nation.
Our sports governance is in the hands of such people who don’t have vision and they just waste time which is the biggest negative.
We expect medals from our athletes without giving them the required facilities and training.
I will not blame our wrestlers for the recent failure in Serbia where they also attended a ten-day joint training camp organised by the United World Wrestling (UWW). It is the system which I will blame. The biggest issue is that we don’t have political and economic stability.
We don’t have money which could help us realise our dreams of paving the way for our top athletes to qualify and impress in the Olympics which is the dream of every athlete. Although we have Olympians in some disciplines who have represented Pakistan on wild cards in the past it does not have any value.
Our sports bodies must learn that they need to make a huge effort if they are to produce Olympians.
In wrestling we have the talent but we will have to train it abroad for years. And for that there will be a huge need for financial assistance from the state and corporate sector.
The trio who recently flopped in the World Wrestling Championship in Serbia must be sent abroad for training just after the Asian Games being held these days in Hangzhou.
We have two other qualifying chances next year in Bishkek and Istanbul where our wrestlers can press for the Olympics seats.
Bishkek will host the Asian Qualifying Round in April and Istanbul will host the World Qualifying Round in May.
It will be of high value if the wrestlers are trained in two or three countries where they will be able to enhance their skills. If the government gives even Rs20 million to the Pakistan Wrestling Federation (PWF) it will help it provide quality training to these three leading wrestlers who have solid experience of playing in the international circuit.
The biggest issue which our wrestlers face at the major stages is in their rankings. As they don’t feature in international events persistently they are unable to improve their rankings. When draws of major events are held due to their low rankings our wrestlers are bracketed with the world’s top wrestlers in their groups and so they are eliminated mostly at the first hurdle. Our wrestling authorities know this reality and this issue can only be overcome if you give constant exposure to your wrestlers.
The PWF chairman and former senator Syed Aqil Shah also has stressed that their wrestlers need exposure.
“How can you develop the wrestlers without exposure? The state should back them. They have the potential to make a cut for the Paris Olympics. As PWF chairman I will also make my best effort to manage some sponsorship for these wrestlers so that we could send them abroad for training,” Shah told me during a brief chat.
Inam and Bilal are also getting IOC scholarships which have been managed for them by the Pakistan Olympic Association (POA).
I am hopeful if our wrestlers go to Iran or Russia for training after the Asian Games for around four to five months they will get top sparring partners there and the exercise will give them a huge advantage in the Qualifiers.
Hope PWF and the government join hands and help these wrestlers in their tough mission.