Email

Why 2015 was a promising year for Pakistan's female athletes

Published 29 Dec, 2015 05:14pm
Maria Toor (l) poses with her Nash Cup trophy. — Photo courtesy Nash Cup
Maria Toor (l) poses with her Nash Cup trophy. — Photo courtesy Nash Cup

Maria Toor’s dream homecoming, Bismah Maroof's all-round show and the golden girls of Pakistan's Powerlifting team provided for some of the best storylines of 2015. Here's a look at the Pakistani sportswomen who made headlines:

Maria on her way to becoming world's best

The flag-bearer of Pakistan’s squash legacy, Maria Toorpakai, continued to inspire in 2015.

Maria, ranked 47 in the world, defeated World no. 34 South Africa’s Siyoli Waters in April to lift the Bahria Town International Women’s squash Championship trophy, the first WSA World Tour squash event to be held in Pakistan for almost seven years. It was the perfect homecoming for Maria after she moved to Canada in 2011 to train with the legendary Jonathan Powers.

Later in September, she regained her Nash Cup title after becoming the first Pakistani player to win it in 2013 and missing the tournament in 2014. She beat Millie Tomlinson of England 8-11,11-8,11-13,11-8,11-9 in 68mins in the final of the 2015 tournament.

Maria Toor with her Nash Cup trophy. — Photo courtesy Nash Cup
Maria Toor with her Nash Cup trophy. — Photo courtesy Nash Cup

The 25-year-old who hails from Bannu, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, won 20 out of her 30 matches this year and has all the qualities to become one of the world’s best, a goal Powers has set for her.

“The main thing is to represent my country of Pakistan and to show that even though we have terrorism and other problems in our country, there are good people out there who can play sport and do well in other ways. There can be problems between east and west and we all know about them, but we can fix these problems,” Maria said after her Nash Cup win.

The golden girls

Twinkle Sohail (57kg), Sonia Azmat (63kg), and Kanwal Shazia Butt (+84kg) combined for a hattrick of gold medals for Pakistan at the 2015 Asian Bench Press Championship in Muscat, Oman.

Nineteen-year-old Twinkle had aspired to be a professional cyclist before switching to weightlifting and said “a gold medal proves that I made the right decision.”

Sonia was also competing in her first international event which made her gold-medal-winning effort even more special.

Kanwal Shazia Butt, Sonia Azmat and Twinkle Sohail pose with their gold medals and trophies at the end of the Asian Bench Press Championship. — Photo courtesy Pakistan Powerlifting Federation
Kanwal Shazia Butt, Sonia Azmat and Twinkle Sohail pose with their gold medals and trophies at the end of the Asian Bench Press Championship. — Photo courtesy Pakistan Powerlifting Federation

Ushna, the next big tennis hope

A scion of the famous tennis family of Khawaja Iftikhar, Ushna Sohail is another bright prospect for Pakistan tennis.

Ushna, 22, has many years of tennis ahead of her but has already become the first Pakistani woman to earn Women Tennis Association (WTA) ranking points.

She has the most singles wins for Pakistan in the Fed Cup (8 out of 13 games) and while Ushna did not have the best season in 2015 (four wins out of 17 singles matches), she gradually making a name for herself along with Sara Mansoor and Iman Qureshi.

Bone-crunching tackles

The Lahore side poses with the winner's trophy. — Photo courtesy Pakistan Rugby Union
The Lahore side poses with the winner's trophy. — Photo courtesy Pakistan Rugby Union
Lahore Sports Sciences Rugby Club won the inaugural National Women’s Rugby Sevens Championship after beating Lahore Women Rugby Club (LWRC) 15-0. A total of 12 teams from across the country took part in the championship organised by the Pakistan Rugby Union as it aimed to 'establish a strong national women 7s team'. The tournament largely went unnoticed but will surely go a long way in providing a steady stream of talent to the Pakistan side.

Slow and steady for women's cricket team

Sana Mir leads her team off the field after their win over Bangladesh. — AFP
Sana Mir leads her team off the field after their win over Bangladesh. — AFP

The Pakistan women's cricket team continued their progress in the year 2015. The team played 11 Twenty20 matches and won five of them while in the ODI format the Pakistan women recorded seven wins out of 12 matches.

The year started positively for Pakistan when in January they beat Sri Lanka 3-0 in an ODI series.

This success helped Pakistan gain some useful points for the ICC Womens Championship — an on-going qualifying tournament for the Women's World Cup which is going to be held in England in 2017.

The world then took notice of Mir's side as they scripted a shock 57-run win over a much stronger South Africa side in the first ODI of the three-match series. Although Pakistan lost the series 2-1, the win propelled match-winners Bismah Maroof and Anam Amin into the limelight and showcased their potential.

Pakistan came back to whitewash Bangladesh in the T20 (2-0) and ODI (2-0) series at home. The matches were not part of the Women's Championship but gave Mir's side a boost before its tour of the West Indies. But the Carribean side proved too strong for the visitors as they lost both the ODI and T20 fixtures.

Bismah Maroof: Pakistan cricket's new star

The Lahore-born Bismah Maroof deserves a special mention as her all-rounder performances for the Pakistan women's cricket team were head and shoulders about the rest.

The 24-year-old southpaw scored an impressive 344 runs in 11 ODIs this year and also demonstrated her utility by taking 10 wickets in 2015.

In the T20 format, Bismah notched up 355 runs and bagged five wickets.

In an interview with Dawn, she called for more support for the women's team.

“In the current scenario, I don’t think that women’s cricket has got any attention. Before the Bangladesh series most people just knew our captain Sana Mir, but after the tour, other players, including myself, have gained attention of fans through good performances,” she said.

“Whether it's the men's team or the women's side, both are representing Pakistan. Therefore, we deserve equal attention. The media too should play it’s part.”