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April 3, 2020

Shah says Tokyo Olympics delay will benefit him

Sports

April 3, 2020

KARACHI: Pakistan’s Olympian judoka Shah Hussain on Thursday said that the one-year delay of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics will benefit him a lot.

“Personally I think it will benefit me a lot,” Shah told ‘The News’ in an interview from Tokyo.

“It will help me prepare well for the rest of the qualifiers which will be rescheduled in the next few months,” he said.

Shah, who competes in -100 kilogramme weight category, has already achieved Olympic spot on continental quota as he is the top seed of Asia in his weight category. But according to the rules, the two-time Asian bronze medallist will have to maintain this position until the end of the Olympic qualifiers.

However, it is yet to be seen how International Judo Federation (IJF) reschedules the qualifiers and whether it makes changes in the system following the postponement of the Olympics because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

This certainly would be the second successive time that the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games silver medallist fighter will represent Pakistan in the Olympics.

He xhad made history when he became the first judoka of Pakistan to qualify for the 2016 Rio Olympics. At that time too, Shah had made it to the Olympics on the basis of continental quota following his consistent solid performances in the two-year long qualifying rounds.

Shah’s father Hussain Shah had also represented Pakistan in boxing in the 1988 Seoul Olympics and won the only bronze medal which the country has to its credit in boxing in the Olympics history.

Shah will have to compete in around four more qualifying events. Pakistan Judo Federation (PJF) also aims to field him in most of these events so that he could further boost his ranking.

Shah said that if he remains fit, he will go for a medal this time. “You know Olympics are around 16 months away and I will have to remain very calculated in everything. If I remain perfectly fit then certainly I will go for a medal,” he said.

Shah is satisfied with his last one year performance in the qualifiers. “Those fighters who have qualified have just kept their positions intact in the last one year but if I see my own performance during the last one year it has been outstanding as compared to the previous year,” he observed.

It is also expected that it would be the last Olympics for the 27-year-old Shah. Despite COVID-19 issue, Shah is still doing training with his coach in Tokyo.

“I am doing training with my coach in the gym next to my home. But yes because of the closure of big gyms here it’s not possible to do some sparring. Still it is good that I am working on my fitness, having some sprints and other exercises during workout,” Shah informed.

He observed that in Japan the issue of coronavirus is not being taken seriously. “My observation is that here the issue is not being taken seriously. Markets are opened and there is no panic,” Shah said.

“The virus also cannot more affect youngsters like me and I am also not too worried for myself but for my parents as they are old,” he said. To a question about who, in his opinion, should be prepared for the 2024 Olympics when he will retire from international Judo Shah said that Qaiser Afridi and Hasnain are the best.

“Both Qaiser and Hasnain have the passion and physical vitality and they can qualify for Olympics,” Shah said. However, he was quick to add that it would not be possible with training in Pakistan.

“Training in Pakistan alone won’t work for them. They will have to be groomed abroad and will have to be provided more international exposure which will bring in them maturity and confidence,” he said.

Shah said Pakistan also should have a foreign coach either from Japan or South Korea. “Pakistan in future will need a foreign coach. Not Iranian Sajjad Kazmi as he was good but he was not a judo player. Pakistan can get cheap coach either from Japan or South Korea and the standard of these coaches are also good enough,” he added.