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Uninspiring athletes

Updated April 17, 2018

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PAKISTAN’S lacklustre performance at the recently concluded Commonwealth Games has yet again raised the question of why a country of over 200 million people is unable to produce a respectable number of award-winning sportspersons.

The 56 athletes who represented Pakistan in the 12-day extravaganza at Gold Coast, Australia, could only win one gold and four bronze medals.

Mohammad Inam Butt’s gold medal on the penultimate day was in line with the impressive show that Pakistani wrestlers have been putting on at the Games since 1954, but it still could not hide the uninspiring performance of the other athletes.

In the 13 editions in which Pakistan has competed, the wrestlers have scooped up as many as 42 of the total 75 medals that the country has won so far.

But the cupboard has been pretty bare otherwise. The debilitating standards of hockey, which used to be a guaranteed medal sport at one time, have cost Pakistan dearly during the past two decades.

It was no different this time and the four drawn games played by the team, including one against the lowly ranked Wales side, led to its ouster from the semi-final race.

Poor infrastructure and governance have not helped. Lack of facilities at the grass roots is another challenge, especially for athletes belonging to the rural areas.

Despite possessing natural talent and a will to excel, their progress is often hampered by lack of social mobility and facilities.

Besides, there is hardly any transparency in the selection of players, while the ineptitude of sports administrators running many sports bodies as personal fiefdoms have caused considerable damage. If our athletes are still doing well it is despite the system, not because of it.

There is an alarming need to put away the ills harming sports, to bring in sincere, competent people to run sports affairs and to take stringent steps to ensure that hefty grants do not go to waste and are properly utilised to upgrade the existing infrastructure and impart modern training.

In short, a complete overhaul is the order of the day.

Published in Dawn, April 17th, 2018