LAHORE, June 23: Thirteen-year-old Rubab Raza will become Pakistan's first woman swimmer to compete in Olympics when she competes in 50 meter freestyle in Athens in August.
"Whenever I go out of home or train at the swimming pool some family members or at least my grandmother remains with me," she said at her family's home.
The family contingent is one concession to the strict mores surrounding women in the world's second largest Muslim country. "I train daily for about two to three hours in the morning and two hours in the evening," she said.
She trains at two pools, the elite British-era Gymkhana club and a private swimming club. The Gymkhana pool was the birthplace of her swimming prowess. "I was seven years of age when I started swimming there," she said.
The ninth year student has since gone on to claim 10 national medals: three in the open category and seven in her own age group. At the last South Asia Federation games in March she picked up a bronze and two silver medals.
Raza, the daughter of retired army major Syed Sibtain Raza and his army doctor wife Lubna, will also compete in the 100 meter freestyle event. "My daughter is very disciplined and humble and I wish for her all success," said Lubna.
Raza is one of only two women in the Pakistani squad. Sumera Zahoor will compete in the 200 metre sprint. The track is where Pakistani women made their Olympic debut.
The first woman to ever represent Pakistan in an Olympic event was Shabana Akhtar, who ran the 100 meter and 200 meter sprints at Atlanta in 1996. Another female runner Shazia Hidayat competed at the Sydney 2000 Olympics. Pakistan will field a total of 48 to 50 athletes in six events: athletics, boxing, hockey, shooting, swimming and weightlifting. -AFP