Saturday September 18, 2021

Talha's glory

July 27, 2021

Pakistan's weightlifter, Talha Talib, ended in fifth place in his weight category at the Tokyo Olympics. With more training, more support and the presence of coaches who were astonishingly absent from the people accompanying this talented young 21-year-old at the Games, Talha could perhaps have ended up on the medal stand. He certainly deserved to, given the amount of effort he had put personally into his training, at his old school, without proper equipment and without all the support that goes into making a top-level athlete. The absence of coaches was notable in that the coach for Palestine assisted Talha when he could. This absence was keenly felt and has been commented on widely. While even government officials ask why more cannot be done for our athletes, surely they are the people who should be putting in place a sports policy that can help the many talented young athletes in Pakistan gain the kind of honour that brings countries together, as happened on Sunday, when Talha Talib's name was flashed across Twitter and other social media, linking people from everywhere in the country in their solidarity for the brave young weightlifter, who made it to the Olympic Games, chiefly on his own effort and with very little help from any outside quarter.

This is the story of Pakistan's sports – other than cricket. The country has sent a contingent of 10 athletes to the Games along with an equal or more number of officials. The discrepancy is astonishing. It is also astonishing that the leaders of the country stand by and allow it to happen. Our athletes in every sport need much more support, help and encouragement. Sending officials for joyrides will not help improve our athletic performance. Talha demonstrated that it is possible, with sheer hard work, to move ahead. Others have done the same in the past purely on their own effort and their own willpower.

What we need is for our athletes to receive the greatest possible support available to them by involving corporations, finding more money to help them, improving our sporting system, and setting in place a programme similar to that which exists in other countries. Were this to happen, we could be claiming medals and with it the pride and honour which help nations unite and find something to rejoice about in a situation where there is often too little happiness and too little joy to be found anywhere. There are many Talhas training hard, with little money and even less support and recognition. We owe this to them.