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April 30, 2021

Eyeing Olympics seat: Haroon confident ahead of Amman qualifiers

Sports

April 30, 2021

KARACHI: Well aware of the presence of some dangerous fighters in his weight category, Pakistan’s premier taekwondo fighter Haroon Khan is confident of giving a breakthrough in the Asian Qualifying round for Tokyo Olympics pencilled in for May 20-22 in Amman, Jordan.

“I know that in our -58kg weight there are a few tough fighters including Halwani from Jordan, Mohsin Raeesani from Afghanistan and fighters from Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan. I know their strength and have planned to beat them,” Haroon told ‘The News’ from Quetta on Thursday.

“I have been in top shape, currently am in Quetta undergoing tough training,” said Haroon, who won gold in the 2019 South Asian Games in Nepal.

However he was quick to add that it would be important for him to overcome ring rustiness on the Jordan tour. “I will be fighting for the first time since featuring in the 13th South Asian Games in Nepal in December 2019,” Haroon said. “When you keep featuring in international events consistently you feel more confident. But the coronavirus has made things difficult,” said Haroon, who is training under the supervision of coach Pervez Ahmad Raeesani in Quetta.

“It’s my dream to qualify for the Olympics and I will go all out in Amman,” he said.

Haroon shot to fame when he performed exceptionally well in the World Championships in Manchester in 2019. He defeated the 2016 European gold medallist Mourad Laachraoui of Belgium in the round of 32. In the round of 64, Haroon had defeated Ralph Honeine of Lebanon. However, he went down to Portugal’s Rui Braganca in the pre-quarter-final.

When asked about his knee injury, Haroon said he is now completely fit. “I have recovered completely now. There is no issue,” the fighter said.

Pakistan Taekwondo Federation (PTF) president Col Wasim expects Haroon to do well. “Haroon is an accomplished and well-groomed fighter. He has also trained in Korea and Japan and knows well how to tackle his fights,” Wasim said. “He is a big hope of Pakistan,” he added.

If he is not able to qualify directly, Haroon will still have a chance on the basis of the IOC Tripartite Commission places. There are eight taekwondo places.

In Amman, Haroon will be accompanied by Taimur Saeed (80kg), England-based Aneela and Zoya Sabir. Taimur is in Karachi, Zoya is training in Rawalpindi, while Aneela, through the support of Pakistan Taekwondo Federation (PTF), has undergone some tough training with English Olympians in Manchester. The top two fighters in each weight from the Asian Qualifiers will make it to the Tokyo Olympics. This event had been planned last year but was postponed due to Covid-19.