ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Judo Federation (PJF) has planned a series of events for Shah Hussain Shah during the next three months, enabling him to add important ranking points for his Tokyo 2020 qualifying race.

“Shah is our only Olympic hope. [Therefore] it is very important for him to improve his ranking. Hence, we are planning to field him in six international events before the end of 2019,” PJF vice-president Masood Ahmed told APP on Wednesday.

Masood added that PJF president Col Junaid Alam had written a letter to the Pakistan Sports Board (PSB) a few days ago, seeking its help to send Shah for the international events.

“The PJF president had highlighted that Shah has the potential to qualify for the 2020 Olympics provided he features in international events to improve his ranking. He told the PSB that unavailability of funds was the main hindrance in PJF plans on Shah,” the PJF vice-president added.

“We has received a positive answer from the PSB as it asked us to provide the details of different events. We’ve communicated these [details] to it. We are sure we’ll get the required support to materialise our plans for Shah.”

The judo Olympic qualifying period, which commenced on May 25, 2018 would end on May 25, 2020. Various international judo events contribute towards accumulation of ranking points and top athletes will be selected in May 2020.

Masood said the PJF would send Shah to Brasilia Grand Slam, taking place from Oct 4 to 9, Grand Slam (UAE, Oct 23-28), Oceania Open (Australia, Nov 2-6), Grand Slam (Japan, Nov 21-25), Asian Open being (Hong Kong, Nov 29-Dec 2) and Qingdao Open (Dec 11-15).

The international ranking of Shah, who competes in -100kg category, has improved 26 places up to 73rd. In the Olympic rankings he rose up from 94th to 57th position.

According to International Judo Federation rules, Masood underlined, if a judoka gets 54th Olympic ranking position he would be able to earn a spot for prestigious event on continental quota. Shah is just three points behind that target. “We are sure he will reach that level in the very first event he competes in. However, he will have to maintain that position till the end of Olympic qualifiers. Hence, his participation in different events is imperative,” he said.

The PJF vice-president said Shah had the capability to directly qualify for the Olympics but for that, he added, Shah needed to be at number 18 on the ranking list.

“If he appears in all qualifying events, I’m sure he will not need continental quota as he will make a direct entry to the Olympics,” Masood added.

Published in Dawn, September 19th, 2019