Pakistan’s dismal third-place finish in the South Asian Games should serve as an eye-opener for our sports chiefs
As expected, Pakistan failed to retain its second spot when it finished the 12th South Asian Games journey at the third place behind India and Sri Lanka.
Pakistan got only 12 gold medals, 37 silver and 57 bronze.
India, as always, was at the top with a record 308 medals, which included 188 gold, 90 silver and 30 bronze ones.
Sri Lanka did a fine job by finishing second with 25 gold, 63 silver and 98 bronze.
The fact that India secured three-fourths of the 239 gold at stake in the event shows that the rest of the countries keep sports very low on their priority list.
Afghanistan ended fourth with seven gold. Six of them came in taekwondo in which the Afghanis overshadowed even the Indians. India fielded second strings in athletics, wrestling and weightlifting. But in shooting they fielded their strongest side, including six Rio Olympics-bound shooters.
In hockey Pakistan romped to their third successive title by beating India in an exciting final. Following a tough last year, the medal must have encouraged the hockey authorities who plan to revive the game.
Athletics was the biggest disappointment as Pakistan only captured three silver and eight bronze medals. It was also the first time that women athletes failed to win any medal.
It should be worrying for the Athletics Federation of Pakistan (AFP). It should prepare a comprehensive plan for promoting the game in which Pakistan used to perform well. Olympian Liaquat Ali failed to live up to the expectations and managed only a bronze medal in 200 metre.
In boxing Pakistan claimed four silver in men’s events and two bronze in women’s events.
This was the first time in the history of the South Asian Games that Pakistani boxers failed to win any gold medal.
Pakistan also could not defend the title in men’s handball when they went 31-32 down in a nail-biting clash against India. Pakistan won bronze in women handball by beating Nepal in the final.
In cycling, Pakistan won silver in the seven-km team trial and three bronze. In Dhaka South Asian Games 2010, Pakistani riders captured two silver and one bronze medal.
In judo Pakistan played really well, claiming two gold, two silver and eight bronze medals. Japan-based Shah Hussain and Fauzia Mumtaz clinched titles in their respective weights.
In Dhaka, Pakistani judokas claimed three gold, three silver and one bronze.
As usual in kabaddi, Pakistan failed to end the dominance of the Indians when they settled down for the silver in the men’s event final.
In squash Pakistan delivered well by claiming one gold through Nasir Iqbal, four silver medals and one bronze. In Dhaka Pakistan had got two gold and one silver in squash. In badminton, which suffered a lot because of international sanctions and internal strife between two parallel groups during the last few years, Pakistan got four bronze medals. In Dhaka, Pakistan had captured three bronze medals.
In weightlifting, Pakistan claimed one gold through Nooh Dastagir Butt (105+kg), two silver and four bronze medals. In 2010, Pakistan’s weightlifters had picked two gold, three silver and one bronze.
In volleyball Pakistan failed to impress as they could not defend their second place, finishing with a bronze medal.
In tennis, Pakistan claimed four bronze medals. In table tennis Pakistan took silver in women’s team event and bronze in men’s team event.
In swimming, Pakistan’s performance was satisfactory as it ended with one gold, two silver and five bronze medals.
Dubai-based Lianna Swan became the first Pakistani woman swimmer to clinch a gold medal at this level. She claimed gold in 200m breaststroke.
In 2010 Pakistan had got only three bronze in swimming.
In taekwondo, Pakistan produced solid performance and won two gold medals through US-based teenager Yasmin Maryam Khan and Asim Ijaz, one silver and four bronze medals. In the previous SAG, Pakistan had clinched three silver and four bronze medals in taekwondo.
In wrestling, Pakistan clinched two gold medals through Mohammad Inam (86kg) and Zaman Anwar (125kg), four silver and one bronze.
In 2010, Pakistan secured two gold, one silver and two bronze medals.
In wushu, Pakistan also made fine effort and grabbed two gold through Maratab Ali Shah and Maaz Khan, two silver and six bronze. In 2010, Pakistan had captured two gold and three bronze in wushu.
Pakistani shooters got nine silver and four bronze medals. In 2010 Pakistani marksmen had secured five silver and three bronze medals.
Pakistan had sent its men and women basketball teams but the event could not be organised because of the presence of two basketball associations in India.
One body is recognised by international basketball governing body (FIBA), while the other is recognised by the Indian government and the Indian Olympic Association (IOA).
I had mentioned in my previous article that it would not be easy for Pakistan to defend its second position. The main reason behind the claim was that Pakistan’s sports had suffered a lot during the last four years due to politics. The players did not get enough international exposure. Even for these South Asian Games no proper preparatory plan had been made. Except the woman kabaddi team, which had toured Iran for a few days training, no team was given any exposure. The camps in most of the disciplines were also not held on proper time. Except in judo, no discipline had any foreign coach in spite of the fact that funds had been allocated for the purpose.
Just a few days before the start of SAG, Pakistan Olympic Association’s (POA) secretary Khalid Mehmood and Director General of Pakistan Sports Board (PSB) Akhtar Nawaz Ganjera had claimed that Pakistan would be able to defend its second position. But it did not happen and should now be a worrying sign for both of them and their bodies.
Pakistan’s sports, at this stage, cannot afford any more wastage of time. It’s time the POA and the PSB planned properly for sports revival and moved forward the government’s help.
There should be a comprehensive programme for sports development, a national sports institute to prepare sports graduates and a proper state-funding mechanism so that the relevant federations could work effectively.
Without investing money, you can’t excel in sports. The government should take it as an industry and it will start benefiting Pakistan after a few years.
The most thrilling part of the South Asian Games was the qualification of India’s Kavita Raut for the Rio Olympics’ women marathon event when she got gold medal with a timing of two hours, 38 minutes and 38 seconds.
The Rio marathon qualification standard is 2 hours and 42 minutes. Kavita became the fourth Indian woman to qualify for Rio’s women marathon.
The next South Asian Games will be held in Kathmandu in 2019.