Olympic preparations

Published April 21, 2024

THIS past week marked the beginning of the 100-day countdown to the Paris Olympics, with the symbolic torch-lighting ceremony. The Olympic torch will now travel through Greece before crossing the Mediterranean and proceeding to Paris for the start of the Games on July 26. Projections of victories and defeats during the world’s biggest sporting event are already underway. For the athletes, it is the final stretch of a four-year journey — three years in this case after the Tokyo Olympics were held in 2021 due to the Covid-19 pandemic — of preparing for the Games. So far, only five athletes from Pakistan have secured direct qualification. There could be more participants once the wildcards are distributed after the end of the Olympic qualifying events, but the country’s hopes of halting a run of seven Olympic Games without a medal rest squarely on the broad shoulders of javelin thrower Arshad Nadeem. The 27-year-old, who won the silver at last year’s World Athletics Championships to punch his ticket to Paris, is participating in a five-week training camp in South Africa, a month after undergoing laser surgery on his right knee. Arshad’s achievements at the global level have come despite the fact that the only international standard javelin in his possession is out of shape. He has had to make the most of his limited opportunities to train abroad.

The situation of others is worse. The three shooters from Pakistan who have qualified for the Games — Gulfam Joseph, Ghulam Mustafa Bashir and Kismala Talat — have been training under a Russian coach in only Karachi. Equestrian Usman Khan, who has also qualified, has travelled the road of hardships on his own. There is a pressing need, especially on the part of the government, to do more for them. With sports becoming a symbol of soft power globally, the new government must dedicate time and effort, and most importantly finances, to this cause.

Published in Dawn, April 21st, 2024

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