KARACHI: This will be the second time on the trot when Pakistan’s experienced athlete Najma Parveen will feature in the Olympics on wild card. She will appear in the 200 metre race in the Tokyo Games on August 2 at the Olympic Stadium.
The Army’s athlete has been phenomenal in her approach and has been winning national titles since 2010 in a number of events, a huge achievement from the Faisalabad runner.
After having featured in the 2016 Rio Olympics on the basis of wild card, Najma’s success graph started rising. She set records in the 2019 National Games in Peshawar and carried the form into the 13th South Asian Games in Nepal in December 2019 where she snared a 400m hurdles gold, two silver medals and a bronze.
She faced a hiccup a few days ago when Athletics Federation of Pakistan (AFP) declined her entry for the Tokyo Games but Pakistan Olympic Association (POA) reinstated that soon to give Najma another opportunity to showcase her talent among the world’s best athletes in Tokyo.
The 30-year-old is undergoing training at Faisalabad. She is determined to pull off her best in the 200m in the Tokyo Games. “I have been training hard and InshaAllah will produce my personal best in Tokyo,” Najma told ‘The News’ in an interview from Faisalabad on Wednesday.
Najma’s personal best in 200m is 23.69 seconds.
“I have been doing fine training. I have never left training at any stage and have kept myself in top shape throughout,” Najma said. She is extremely happy that she is going for the second time to the Olympics.
“It’s a blessing from God Almighty who has honoured me with another great opportunity and I will try to learn more by competing with the world’s best again. Olympics are a great platform and there one learns a lot,” Najma said.
“When I competed in Rio in 2016 I realised my mistakes and after returning home I worked very hard on them and the next two to three tours went very well, although I did not take medals in them,” she said.
“I then took six golds in the National Games in Peshawar in 2019 and got one gold, two silvers, and a bronze in the 2019 South Asian Games in Nepal,” Najma said.
She recently married Ali Ashraf, who is a national champion in high jump. “Before marriage, my father used to take care of me. He was especially careful about my food and after marriage my husband takes care of me. As he himself is a national athlete so he knows what I need and is highly supportive,” Najma said.
When asked about how her entry for Olympics was declined and later reinstated, Najma said she did not know about any such issue. “I still don’t know exactly what the issues were. I knew that I would go to Tokyo,” Najma said.
Asked if Pakistani female athletes could qualify directly for Olympics if properly backed, Najma replied in the affirmative. “We have a lot of talent and we can qualify directly if we are provided with consistent international exposure, quality training and quality infrastructure,” Najma said.
“Look, the world’s top athletes come to the Olympics and they have a consistent and healthy training stint and international exposure at their back. If you go with a solid plan and focus on the development of the athletes on a long-term basis then you can produce top quality athletes. It depends on the system and the facilities which you are provided with as an athlete,” she said.
Najma, along with Javelin thrower Arshad Nadeem, will leave for Tokyo on July 22. The duo will be accompanied by coaches Fayyaz Hussain Bukhari and Shagufta Noreen.
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