Friday September 17, 2021

Khalil poised to repeat qualifying round’s show at Olympics

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s flag-bearer at the Tokyo Olympics Khalil Akhtar was in high spirit to repeat his qualification performance where he toppled the best shooters on his way to becoming the fifth shooter to qualify for the 25m Rapid Fire Pistol Olympic event last year in Brazil.

Talking to ‘The News’ a couple of days ahead of the first round on August 1, Khalil said he was present in the company of all those shooters against whom he put up his best a year back.

“The field is almost the same like the one at the Olympic qualification round held last year. I defeated the best and there were only two places available. I finished fifth on my way to make it to the Olympics in the round specially meant for Olympic qualification. I am in high spirit to repeat that performance and even better than that,” Khalil said while talking to ‘The News’ on the telephone from Tokyo.

He added that shooting competition was all about being in the prime form, the moment you start competing on such a high platform.

“To be in the best mental and physical shape the moment we start day 1 first round is what we are looking at. Half of the shots have been set for August 1 while half of the remaining attempts would be on display on the second day before the final to be contested among the top six finishers. It is a bit complicated format where anything going less than 9.6 at the first stage does not count. You need consistent performance throughout to win a medal and that is what I am planning at,” Khalil said.

He missed regular training that was not possible due to competitions as well as due to shooters’ presence in greater numbers.

“We get the opportunity to use the training facility off and on. On July 30, we would be having a lengthy session at the range and hopefully would give our preparations a final shape. After Friday training session we would get another opportunity possibly on July 31. Hopefully, we would enter into the competition on August 1 in high spirits.”

Khalil praised his partner Ghulam Mustafa Bashir’s presence as a big support to him. “Though we are competitors in the same category, Ghulam Mustafa being a senior and experienced shooter always comes forward to my help. His presence alongside is an advantage for me,” Khalil said.

Asked about his training routine since he qualified directly for the Olympics, he said he never sat back and relaxed.

“It is all about working hard and putting up your best every time you get an opportunity. We have trained hard for the occasion. We have trained in Germany in the company of some of the best shooters and have managed to compete at a few events in the run up to the Games.”

Khalil admitted that luck always plays a vital role in such competitions.

“I think Gulfam Joseph was unlucky to have missed the cut earlier. He was as good as Iranian who finished with gold. Just a point difference resulted in his inability to make it to the finals. I request countrymen to pray for us for the little luck that is required to make a difference.”

Khalil also had praise for the shooting range, saying that Tokyo Games offers one of the best shooting ranges. “It is the best shooting range and the arrangements here are exceptional,” Khalil said.