Olympic hopefuls and government apathy

March 21, 2021

The IPC Ministry has done little to help athletes, who are targeting Olympic qualification

It has been seen that the Ministry of IPC acts too late on various issues. As far as Pakistan’s Olympics mission is concerned the ministry has not yet delivered the way it should have. Under federal minister Dr Fehmida Mirza the IPC Ministry does not understand how to act and when to act. If it wants to promote sports it will have to make prompt decisions on the most urgent issues. Here I will discuss Pakistan’s Olympic qualification process. This is the first time that we see some positive developments as far as our Olympics qualification growth is concerned.

So far three shooters, one equestrian and one athlete have qualified. One judoka has already achieved the continental quota while a karate fighter is aiming to qualify. Similarly, our wrestlers, taekwondo fighters and weightlifters also aim to qualify.

Now I would like to explain in detail what is happening. The government has already announced that Melbourne-based equestrian Usman Khan will be supported for the purchase of a new horse following the death of Azad Kashmir, the horse through which he had qualified in 2019 for Tokyo Olympics - becoming the first equestrian of the country to do that.

Usman has already cleared two hurdles. He has less than three months during which he will have to clear three more hurdles which will enable him to ensure his Olympics seat. He urgently needs a four-star horse which is very expensive if we see the international market. He has already submitted some documents with the PSB and the IPC Ministry needs to act promptly to assist Usman. He has worked hard for 15 years to earn an Olympics seat. There is no doubt that he has spent millions from his own pocket as it is a very expensive game.

I am also not satisfied with the role of the Equestrian Federation of Pakistan (EFP). I had a few email communications a few months back with the EFP and in one case I was answered very late by the federation. I know that influential people run the federation but they should know that this is the property of the nation and every care should be taken to protect the rights of its players.

EFP should promptly act and tackle Usman’s matter with the IPC Ministry.

Now I come to Japan-based judoka Shah Hussain. Shah is the first Pakistani Olympian judoka - he featured in the 2016 Rio Olympics after he earned an Olympics seat on continental quota. Currently he stands at the 48th spot in Olympics rankings and has already achieved continental quota qualification. He needs to maintain his continental quota. He missed Grand Slams in Tel Aviv and Tashkent this year due to financial issues which affected his position. If the state keeps failing to support Shah’s Olympic mission he may lose even his continental qualification. The other day his father, former Olympics bronze medallist boxer Hussain Shah, told me that Prime Minister Imran Khan should abolish sports if he cannot run it. Shah needs not only to feature in a handful of Olympics qualifiers but he also needs to undergo some training abroad.

Dubai-based karateka Saadi Abbas is another example. Saadi has rendered meritorious services for Pakistan, having clinched many titles in major events.

He currently stands at the 24th place in the Olympics standings. He has ahead two qualifying events and the world qualifying event in Paris in June is the most important as the top three fighters in each weight category will directly qualify for Tokyo Olympics. Before that he will play in the Portugal qualifying event where he will get a chance to boost his rankings.

The other day he told me from Dubai that he needs around Rs5 million urgently so that he could pursue his Olympics mission. He needs a Turkish coach for around four months. Although he features in the qualifiers through the scholarship of the IOC, that is not that big. He needs the amount because he has to prepare himself much better for the Olympics qualifiers. If he qualifies then I am hopeful he has every capability to claim an Olympics medal.

In his illustrious career, Saadi has clinched Asian title, two crowns of the Commonwealth Championships and a US Open title besides so many other crowns at various levels.

Dr Fehmida Mirza should look at his case which is genuine. Yes it’s right that the IPC Ministry has started helping javelin thrower Arshad Nadeem who is undergoing training in Lahore. It’s a good step from the ministry as Arshad is one of the athletes who can win a medal in the Tokyo Olympics.

IPC Ministry also needs to look at the case of wrestlers who aim to feature in a few qualifying rounds. For the last three years, no camp has been organized for them. Pakistan has a golden record in wrestling which has produced some big grapplers like Inam Butt, who is two-time world beach wrestling champion.

Others who need attention from the state include weightlifters Talha Talib and Nooh Dastgir Butt who also are aiming to showcase their talent in the Asian Championship next month, which serves as Olympics qualifiers.

Wrestlers and weightlifters are training under the auspices of their respective federations in Lahore.

NRAP is looking after its shooters quite well but they also need big state support to prepare well for the Olympics. Three shooters, Ghulam Mustafa Bashir, Gulfam Joseph and Khalil Akhtar, have qualified for Tokyo Olympics.

National boxers lost their qualifying chance when the world qualifying round in Paris was cancelled last month.

Some of our taekwondo fighters also aim to spring surprise and they also need to be financially backed.

The state has the funds for the purpose and should be utilized promptly. I always say that there is a need of a PSB Director General. A DG is being hired as I have heard that four people have been shortlisted following interviews. Let’s see what happens. Some names in the shortlisted people have the capability to run the Board efficiently.

A DG should not be a puppet but should have unlimited administrative and financial powers so that he could handle the sports effectively.

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Olympic hopefuls and government apathy