Commonwealth triumph

Published August 5, 2022

IT took five days but given the rousing manner in which it happened it was worth the wait. Finally, Pakistan could celebrate. Its first gold medal at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham was delivered in record-breaking style by weightlifter Nooh Dastagir Butt on Wednesday. Hours earlier, judoka Shah Hussain Shah had won the country’s first medal at the Games when he bagged the bronze. It was a much-needed boost for the nation that had until then seen its athletes struggle at the quadrennial event. The celebrations spilled over to Thursday when sprinter Shajar Abbas blazed his way into the semi-finals of the men’s 200m after winning his heat. But the afterglow of Nooh’s gold and Shah Hussain’s bronze still burned brightly. Nooh broke the Commonwealth Games record when he lifted a total of 405kg in the men’s +109kg competition. The man he beat was the previous record-holder, David Liti of New Zealand who had won in the previous edition of the Games when Nooh had earned a bronze. For Shah Hussain, it was an amazing recovery after he had lost his quarter-final bout in the -90kg competition. In the bronze medal match, he overwhelmed his South African opponent Thomas-Lazlo Breytenbach by ippon, the highest score in judo.

After these triumphs, the government reiterated its policy of awarding cash prizes to the winners. This, however, shouldn’t be the end. For athletes like Nooh, who missed last year’s Olympics due to injury, the victory should propel him to greater heights. The next Olympics are due in two years and preparations to ensure Nooh and others do well in Paris must begin in earnest. Once they identify world-class talent, countries everywhere work on providing sportspersons with facilities and elite coaching to hone their skills. Athletes in Pakistan, however, return to the same decrepit facilities they had during training. It is high time that both the government and sports federations build on this success to develop better infrastructure to not only improve the standards of current athletes but to also inspire future generations.

Published in Dawn, August 5th, 2022

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