Tuesday May 21, 2024

Faiqa to represent Pakistan on wild card in Paris

By Alam Zeb Safi
April 24, 2024
This image shows the Olympic Rings in front of the headquarters of the International Olympic Committee in Lausanne. — AFP/File
This image shows the Olympic Rings in front of the headquarters of the International Olympic Committee in Lausanne. — AFP/File

LAHORE: Pakistan’s highly gutsy female sprinter and national champion Faiqa Riaz will represent Pakistan in this year’s Paris Olympics on wild card.

Sources told ‘The News’ that her confirmation has been made by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and World Athletics. Faiqa was excited when she was approached by this correspondent. “It’s great,” she told ‘The News’ here on the sidelines of her training at the Punjab Stadium.

“Yes it was my dream but I had not thought that I could go to the Olympics. Allah opened the doors for me and I am thankful to God,” she said. Faiqa’s official camp has not yet been held. She is training on her own. Fayyaz Ahmed from Sahiwal is her coach.

She will compete in 100m sprint in the world’s most prestigious games. She was seen by this correspondent running extremely well and it is expected that the Lahore-based sprinter will do her best at the biggest stage.

She will be accompanied by the world’s sliver medalist javelin thrower Arshad Nadeem who qualified for the Paris Olympics with his stunning throw in the World Championship in Hungary last year.

This correspondent has also learnt that Pakistan Olympic Association (POA) has informed Faiqa that her nomination has been confirmed for the Paris Olympics. “So far female athletes, who have represented Pakistan on wild cards in Olympics, have not performed so well and I plan to do well. I have three months at my disposal and I plan to work hard so that at least I could manage my personal best in Paris Games,” she said.

“Although I cannot compete for medal at least I would like to do something for the country by pulling off my best,” said Faiqa, whose forefathers are from Hafizabad, a village in Sheikhupura.

Faiqa has completed her Masters in Accounting and Finance. She was a hockey player and used to play as a right-in and right-out. She also attended Pakistan’s hockey team camp for Thailand tour in 2016. She then left hockey despite her craving for the game as she wanted to focus exclusively on athletics.

“I chose athletics as my profession as it was not easy to manage both games at the same time,” she said. Faiqa is a Grade-11 employee of WAPDA. She joined WAPDA as national junior champion. She became national sprint champion by securing gold in the National Athletics Championship in Attock last December.

Faiqa was also dogged by injuries in her career a few years ago and it took her two years to gain complete recovery. Faiqa’s personal best time in the 100m sprint is 11.70 seconds. However, it is not electronic timing.

She is determined to pull off Pakistan’s record in the 100m sprint. “Yes, it’s my goal and it is possible that I will be able to do this in Paris,” Faiqa said. Faiqa featured in the South Asian Junior Athletics Championship in Sri Lanka in 2017 which was her debut event.

It is not yet known whether the athletics authorities will give her any event before the Olympics or not. “My coach Fayyaz Ahmed is a very good coach. He is my coach in WAPDA and his training suited me and so I decided to train under him permanently,” Faiqa said.

She said that it would be great to accompany Arshad Nadeem during Olympics. “It would be great to accompany Arshad bhai as he is a global hero,” Faiqa said.

She is very impressed by senior sprinter Najma Parveen. “I like her (Najma) as she behaves very well and I think behaviour of a person is very important,” she said. Asked what is needed for a sprinter to develop Faiqa said: “Focus is important. If there is no focus then you cannot achieve anything big.

“You should train like competition and you should compete with courage. Yes, pressure can be taken but there should be no fear.”

One male and one female swimmer will also represent Pakistan on universality places (wild card). However, it will be confirmed in the next two months, sources aware of the process told The News. Shooters Gulfam Jospeh, Ghulam Mustafa Bashir and Kishmala Talat, javelin thrower Arshad Nadeem and France-based eventer Usman Khan have so far directly qualified for the Paris Games.