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April 15, 2019

Pakistan sending five ‘under-prepared’ athletes to Doha


April 15, 2019

KARACHI: Pakistan’s poorly-prepared athletes are set to leave for Doha on April 18 to flex their muscles in the 23rd Asian Athletics Championships slated to be held at the state-of-the-art Khalifa International Stadium from April 21 to 24.

Despite several requests by the Athletics Federation of Pakistan (AFP) for sponsoring a camp, Pakistan Sports Board (PSB) has failed to support the five athletes who will be going to Doha. A senior official of the AFP told ‘The News’ on Sunday that tickets had been confirmed and the squad was ready to depart for Doha on April 18.

"Yes, they are going on April 18," AFP president Maj Gen (retd) Akram Sahi told ‘The News’. Sahi agreed that no big expectations could be attached with the athletes as no proper camp had been held. "You are aware that we requested the government several times that our athletes need a camp but nothing was done. We are sending the athletes for protecting the honour of the country. It’s the responsibility of the state to sponsor camps. Federations are unable to bear expenses of camps," said Sahi, a former international athlete.

The country’s popular javelin thrower and 2018 Asian Games bronze medallist Arshad Nadeem (WAPDA), sprinter Uzair (Army), 400m specialist and former Olympian Mehboob Ali (Army), high jumper Shehroz (WAPDA) and sprinter Sahib-e-Asra (WAPDA) are going to Doha.

Arshad, who created ripples by winning bronze at last year’s Asian Games, has been unable to prepare properly. This correspondent has learnt that Arshad is practising at his village in Mian Channu at a small ground in which he cannot even attempt a throw. And he will throw only before the competitions in Doha.

Sahi is not happy with the situation. "He is practising at his village. He is a good athlete. When I saw him for the first time a few years ago we started focusing on him. You remember we also sent him to Mauritius for training but unfortunately he returned due to home sickness," he said.

"I told you that it would be much better if we were able to hire a foreign coach. We requested different departments for the purpose but no one responded. Unless the state supports us massively it is not possible to achieve big goals. The current government is not looking after the sports. So far nothing concrete has been done," Sahi said.

He said that Army’s athletes Uzair and Olympian Mehboob Ali were in good shape. "They are in good shape because they are training under the supervision of Army. An Inter-Services event was also held recently. Sahib-e-Asra is also training and so is Shehroz.

"But I am not sure if our athletes can pull off anything big in Doha," Sahi said. The athletes will be accompanied by coach Asghar Gill, a former Railways employee. At the iconic Khalifa International Stadium, innovative and environment-friendly cooling technology has been successfully operating, ensuring optimal conditions for athletes and fans.

The tournament will see the usual continental power-houses go head-to-head for the number one spot in Asia’s athletics. After the Japanese dominance over the championship, China had been undisputed champions for 17 successive editions until they were unseated by last edition’s hosts and eventual winners India.

With top Asian athletes descending on Doha from different regions of the continent, the 23rd Asian Athletics Championships will surely produce promising athletes who can then return to Doha in September and shine on the global stage when the city hosts the IAAF World Athletics Championships.

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