Instead of holding big camps at home, the government should send the top athletes abroad to prepare for Olympics qualifiers
On the one hand Pakistan Sports Board (PSB) faces financial issues and on the other it confronts the task of meeting financial requirements of all those athletes who are to prepare for the 2024 Paris Olympics qualifying rounds.
Keeping in view such a complicated situation the Board’s top authorities need to take a solid decision in order to deftly meet the requirements of those athletes who deserve to feature in the qualifiers.
The Board plans to hold camps of several disciplines in which Pakistan can qualify for the 2024 Paris Games. The Board will have to keep 20-30 athletes and some officials in every discipline in which the nation has the chance to make it to the 2024 Paris Games. But I think it would cost the Board a lot and the state would not be able to sustain the camps for a long time. There is a reasonable way of tackling this problem. It’s high time for the Board’s top officials to put their heads together and decide that only those potential athletes will be given foreign training who have the capability to make a cut for the 2024 Paris Olympics. There is no need to train them at home which I think will not help them much.
In wrestling we have four leading grapplers in the shape of Mohammad Inam, youth Olympic Games bronze medalist Inayatullah, emerging prospect Mohammad Sharif Tahir and the experienced Mohammed Bilal who missed the Commonwealth Games after he lost in the trials but certainly is the best player in the 57kg category. These four wrestlers should either be sent to Iran, Ukraine or any central Asian country before the World Championships which will be held in 2023. In January and February there will be ranking events of wrestling and in March the Asian Championship will be held.
This event will be compulsory for all those wrestlers who want to feature in the Olympic qualifiers. It means those who will feature in the continental event will be able to participate in the Olympic qualifiers. I think instead of spending a huge amount on a camp of 25 to 30 wrestlers at home it will be a wise decision from the PSB if it goes for spending money on these four wrestlers and sends them abroad for a few months training. I am confident if it is done Pakistan can make a cut for the 2024 Paris Olympics in wrestling. Unless our top fighters train against the best lot in the world they will not improve.
In weightlifting we have the Commonwealth Games gold medallist Nooh Dastgir Butt who can qualify for the 2024 Paris Games. He is the only weightlifter who is not tainted among the leading pack as around six weightlifters, including Talha Talib, are facing investigation from the International Testing Agency (ITA).
Nooh’s brother Hanzala Dastgir Butt failed to show his mettle in the Birmingham Commonwealth Games and he is not in the reckoning among those who have the capability to qualify for the Olympics.
Javelin thrower Arshad Nadeem is an automatic choice and he definitely is in the plans of the Board as he is the only athlete who is likely to get a medal in the 2024 Paris Games for Pakistan. Arshad through his record-breaking feats recently in the Commonwealth Games and the Islamic Games has now put himself in the category of all those great gurus of javelin around the world who can do anything on a given day in any tournament.
In judo the PSB should focus on the two-time Olympian Shah Hussain and Qaisar Afridi. I don’t think Qaisar will be able to make a cut this time but Shah can do anything, having the experience of playing in 2016 in Rio and 2020 in Tokyo.
We also have a few fighters in taekwondo who can come close to the Olympic standard.
In boxing we are yet to know who is going to pose a real threat to the strongest opponents. We have a few in the sport but it depends on how they are trained and prepared for the top challenge. In boxing there will be a three-pronged qualifying pathway in the shape of the continental qualification and two world-level qualification tournaments. The continental qualifying round will be the 19th Asian Games slated to be hosted by China in Hangzhou from September 23 to October 8, 2023. The world qualifying rounds will be held in 2024.
Yes, we have a solid chance of qualifying directly for the Olympics in shooting which is generally a very potential discipline in which we can create ripples if our shooters are trained solidly. The state should massively back this discipline.
In the rest of the sports disciplines like badminton, table tennis and swimming I don’t think anything can be achieved.
Yes, we have a big hope in equestrian. In eventing, Pakistan’s Melbourne-based rider Usman Khan is on the way to qualifying for the Paris Games. He is playing in the 3-star FEI events these days and recently got an MER in France. He needs two more MERs at this level to progress to the 4-star. Three successful MERs at that stage would put him in the Olympics. For Usman it is not an uphill task to earn an Olympic seat as he has already done that. The death of his two horses and his critical injuries deprived him of a chance to feature in the Tokyo Olympics. The state must support this man as he has rendered meritorious services for the country despite living in Australia.
I hope the Board focuses on quality, not numbers. By doing that, with a little financial input major things can be achieved.