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May 2, 2021

With government backing, weightlifter Talha Talib can win many more medals, even at Olympics

Pakistan’s promising weightlifter Talha Talib a few days ago sprang a surprise when he pulled off snatch bronze in the Asian Championship in Uzbekistan to show to the world that the Gujranwala player can turn into a global hero in future.I have been following Talha for the last few years as a reporter and have found that he has been growing as a player consistently. He is consistently delivering at the international circuit. In Uzbekistan he managed a 148kg weight in snatch to pull off a bronze, a medal which came after decades at this level in Pakistan’s favour.

The Asian Championship was also a qualifying event for this summer’s Tokyo Olympics. Talha’s Olympic fate will be decided when the final standings of all qualifying rounds are unveiled. Talha had also snared bronze in the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games.

Talha is lucky to have a coach in his father who accompanied him during Asian Championship in Uzbekistan.

Despite no proper support Talha laboured hard for months amid Covid to win a medal at the continental level. Pakistan Weightlifting Federation (PWF) senior official Amjad Amin Butt told me in an interview after the Asian Championship that Talha can secure World Championship snatch medal if he is backed by the state.

Funding is really a big issue. Weightlifters need a healthy diet and it is not easy to meet such requirements through the salaries which the leading players get from their departments.

Despite such a consistent rise, Talha is even not being given promotion by WAPDA. I hope Asian Championship medal will pave the way for his promotion.

The government must also start backing him. After he won the bronze medal, the Pakistan Sports Board (PSB) Director General Col (retd) Asif Zaman congratulated him. Such encouragement is needed for athletes like him. Nooh Dastgir Butt, another top weightlifter, missed the Uzbekistan event due to an injury.

If Talha qualifies for this Olympics, then it’s okay, but if he fails then the state should start backing him constantly so that he could aim at the 2024 Olympics seat.

He is a real hero in the making. Let’s ask Talha and he will tell you about his Uzbekistan achievement and what he needs in future to realise his dreams.

“I had aimed to pull off a medal in the Asian Championship. I practised twice a day for four months successively for the purpose and thanks God I have been rewarded,” Talha told ‘The News’ on Sunday (TNS).

“It was a medal which came after 46 years in the Asian Championship history and I am happy that I am Pakistan’s top player in Asia,” Talha said.

“I also improved my total by 11 kilogramme and missed a couple of bronze by one kg in total and clean and jerk. I set three national and three Commonwealth records also,” Talha said.

“My clean and jerk is not that good but I am also working on it to bring improvement in the area. I focused more on snatch and that yielded dividends,” Talha said.

“This was the first time that I was fighting neck in neck against China’s Hunan Minhao, who is the 2018 Ashgabat World Championship silver medallist,” he said.

“Let’s see where I stand at the Olympics standings but the performance in Uzbekistan has instilled a lot of confidence,” Talha said. “I am also targeting 2024 Olympics. I will not only qualify but will also fight for the medal. I don’t need an Olympic tag only. I want to win a medal and I can do that if I work with ample financial support from the government,” Talha said.

“I will need to feature in at least four international events in a year during the next four years. It will help me fight against the world’s best weightlifters and it will help me learn about their work ethics and the way they have achieved global glories. Experience also makes you confident,” Talha said.

“I am thankful to the PWF and the Pakistan Olympic Association (POA) for the support they have extended to me. I would be glad if the government started funding the PWF so that it could spend on us in future,” Talha said.

Mohammad Rashid Malik, an Executive Committee Member of PWF, knows a lot about how Talha grew as an athlete. “He began weightlifting at Islamia Sports Club, Gujranwala,” he told ‘The News on Sunday’.

“In 2014 PWF picked him for the national youth camp. At that time he was serving WAPDA on stipends. He was trained by Irfan Butt, an IWF certified coach and the first-ever youth Olympian weightlifter,” Malik said.

“PWF provided Talha the most modern and the highest level of professional coaching through Irfan Butt at Lahore and Islamabad which enabled Talha to win the first silver medal for Pakistan at the Commonwealth Youth Games along with Abdur Rehman who also won silver,” he said.

“Talha further was trained by Pakistan elite national coach Ali Aslam, who has been grooming this young star since 2016. All credit goes to CEO PWF Hafiz Imran Butt, who provided Talha all the international platforms on the road to Tokyo Olympics,” he said.

“Hafiz Imran Butt took all the measures to provide the best food supplements and provided the best training facility at the PWF training centre and during Corona situation training at his hometown at the Star Weightlifting Club in Talha’s school (Pakistan High School) Bakhteywala under the Principal President Star Weightlifting Club Mubashar Tung,” he said.

“Talha will surely win all the three medals in the Commonwealth Championship in Malaysia this October and is sure to clinch golds in the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham next year,” Malik said.

It is high time the government focused on weightlifting. There is a great need of infrastructure and equipment. Pakistan is also set to host South Asian Games in Punjab in early 2023 and every effort should be made to create international-level weightlifting facilities with state-of-the-art equipment so that our upcoming talent could benefit from it.

Talha and Nooh should be provided equipment at their homes. If this sport is well looked after very soon we will have Olympic and world champions in the game.

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