SOMETHING incredible happened last week at the Jinnah stadium in Islamabad.
In the athletics championship during the Quaid-e-Azam Inter-provincial Games, Sindh’s amateur athletics team pulled off a historic feat by picking up four gold medals in men’s sprint events with dominating performances on the track.
Those victories came in the 100m (Abdul Mueed Baloch — 11:07 seconds), 200m (Abdul Mueed Baloch — 22:25 seconds), 400m (Umer Sadaat — 48:90 seconds) and 800m (Umer Sadaat — 2 min 2 seconds).
Traditionally given the investment in professionalism and infrastructure and the commitment with which the Punjab Sports Board and Punjab-based athletic federations train their athletes, no other province has been able to challenge their dominance for years.
Sindh, however, upset the applecart in the capital.
But despite their stellar performance in track events — with saw them end up with 12 medals, Sindh failed to make an impression in the field events and that saw them finish fourth behind Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkwa and Balochistan.
Coaches and athletes blame this on the inability of Sindh Sports Board to pay transport, accommodation and daily allowances for team trials and training camps to outstation athletes.
Talent spotters and coaches strongly believe that we would not just find throwers and jumpers but also middle-distance runners if we encourage participation and provide financial support to our athletes.
There is no dearth of talent and resources, just an absence of commitment and a willingness to invest in the future of athletics in the province.
Compared to Punjab, which has seven fields with tartan tracks and athletics training facilities, Sindh only boasts a single field in Karachi on stadium road mortgaged to walkers in the evenings, school sports events during the day and pye dogs throughout the week.
The issue is not space — the facility has enough land to build additional tartan tracks, multiple walking paths and accommodate everyone.
The issue is utilization and commitment.
To improve our provincial standing at the national level we need to couple incentives with a published calendar of local competitions, honour award announcements with timely release of cash and organising regular training camps across the province to ensure athletic talent is discovered, encouraged and nourished.
Sindh’s only field medal was scored in long jump by Shafaq Aarfreen, a member of the women track team.
Shafaq picked up two bronze medals in 100m and 200m sprints while Sindh’s third bronze was picked up by Almas Ibrahim in the 400m sprint.
The women squad also finished with two silver medals in 4x400m and 4x100m relay races. The same team of sprinters ran both events and included Shafaq, Almss, Salwa Farid and Sadia Bashir.
Sindh’s men’s team also won two bronze medals. Usama Sultan finished third in 100m (11:28 seconds) and the relay team finished in third place behind Punjab and KPK in the 4x400m relay.
Published in Dawn, May 2nd, 2016