2014 Incheon Asian Games: Pakistan in search of gold….

Friday, September 19th, 2014 7:02:40 by



The Express Tribune takes a look at the key players Pakistan is fielding at the Asian Games; the disciplines which are making their debut this year and the sports that may not have done well in the past, but are strong contenders for winning a medal this time around

Key players

Muhammad Waseem

Boxing

Since 1954, Pakistan’s boxers have brought home a total of 60 medals from the Asian Games, the highest tally among all sports of the country in the event.

This year, the nation’s hope will be pinned on Commonwealth Games silver-medallist Waseem in the 52kg event. The Quetta-based pugilist has won 10 international medals for Pakistan since his debut in 2010.

According to Waseem, he is ready for the mega event and his aim will be to win no less than a gold.

“The Asian Games are very important for me,” said Waseem. “It’s my chance of winning a gold, something that I missed at the Commonwealth Games in August. I’ve put in a lot of effort and have trained non-stop since the past few months.”

Muhammad Tousiq Arshad

Hockey

The 10th member from his family to have made it to the national hockey team, Tousiq is currently the most well-established player for Pakistan as a result of his game-changing abilities.

His skills were recognised by the Asian Hockey Federation in Malaysia, where he was announced the Asian Player of the Year on August 31.

The 21-year-old belongs to a new breed of players in Pakistan who possess the nation’s traditional skills as well as the speed of modern hockey.

The centre-half had received the same award in 2010, while he was also declared 2009’s young emerging player and man of the tournament the same year at the U18 Asia Cup. He was also named player of the tournament during the Asian Champions Trophy held in Japan last year.

Nasir Iqbal 

Squash

Pakistan’s highest ranked player in the world at the 42nd spot in the Professional Squash Association (PSA) standings, Nasir is not only leading the team at the Asian Games but is also the country’s best bet in the individual event.

The Bannu-born player, known for his superior fitness levels, has won seven PSA titles so far.

Early in his career, he won the Asian Championship title at the U15 level but failed to repeat his heroics in the U19 competition, letting fellow youngster Danish Atlas take the honours in 2012, followed by Ali Bokhari (2013) and Tayyab Aslam (2014).

However, he recently helped Pakistan win the Asian Team Championship.

Sana Mir

Cricket

Captain of the national women’s cricket team since 2009, Sana, who has a knack for performing with both the bat and ball in crucial moments, will be leading her side once again at the Asian Games to defend their gold.

She is currently ranked sixth in the International Cricket Council Women ODI rankings, which is a testament to her skills and consistent performances. In 70 ODIs, she has picked up 79 wickets and scored 792 runs; she also has a tally of 479 runs and 44 scalps in 52 T20Is.

Back in May, Sana was selected for the Rest of the World XI due to her outstanding show in international cricket; and she did not disappoint at the biggest stage, claiming four wickets to help her side beat Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) by 41 runs at Lords.

Muhammad Inam 

Wrestling

Pakistan’s top wrestler Inam will be leading the squad at the Asian Games and is set to represent the country in the 86kg greco-roman freestyle event.

The Gujranwala-based athlete will be competing at the Asiad for the second time.

He had earlier participated at the Commonwealth Games in August, but failed to bring home a medal.

However, Pakistan Wrestling Federation (PWF) Secretary Muhammad Arshad Sattar said that the wrestler had earned his place as a 2010 Commonwealth Games gold-medallist.

“Inam is our strongest wrestler,” said Sattar. “He is in his best form and he can win a medal in Korea. We are all set for our event, which will begin on September 25. Hopefully, Inam will prove himself this time.”

Maria Toorpakai 

Squash

The lion-hearted Maria dressed as a boy in her early years to go out and compete in events to pursue her dream, despite coming from a conservative area of South Waziristan.

Her perseverant nature now has her training with former world champion Jonathan Power in Canada for the past few years to develop herself as a professional player.

She once broke into the top 50 players of the world, claiming the 49th position; however, she currently stands at 64.

Her dream is to become a world champion one day, but a more realistic target for her is to make a mark at the Asian Games, where she will lead the female squad and also participate in the individual competition.

Debuts

Rugby

Pakistan will be making their debut at the rugby sevens event this year and will compete in Pool B with Hong Kong, China and the Philippines after India pulled back from the competition.

Pakistan Rugby Union President Fawzi Khwaja believes that the country’s participation is an important step.

“It’s going to be a tough competition,” said Khwaja. “We are competing on our own, with no sponsorship from the government. But participating for the first time means a lot to us. We have a 12-member squad, which is being led by Sahir Riaz, and three officials.”

Meanwhile, coach Rizwan Malik said that his team is keen to play good rugby and gain international exposure at the event.

The rugby team will leave for Incheon on September 28, and begin the event on September 30.

Women’s Tennis

For the first time in history, the Pakistan Tennis Federation (PTF) has sent a women’s team – comprising Ushna Sohail and Sara Mansoor – to the Asiad, where their event will start from September 20.

According to PTF President Kaleem Imam, giving female players opportunities to compete abroad is the federation’s priority.

“It’s a proud moment for us,” said Imam. “Both Ushna and Sara are good players and they needed this event as much as the men’s team.

“I believe that their chances of winning a medal are slim, but they can make it past the early matches. The most important thing was to give women a chance to compete in a high-level event.”

Ushna and Sara are accompanied by the men’s squad, which includes Aqeel Khan and Muhammad Abid.

Women’s Karate

The Pakistan Karate Federation (PKF) is sending a national squad with four men and two women to participate at the Asian Games Karate event beginning from September 28.

While the male athletes have competed in the Asian Games previously, it will be a debut for female karatekas.

According to Kulsoom Hazara, who is participating in the 68kg event, it will be a moment of pride to represent Pakistan in the country’s first appearance in the female event.

“We’ve never had this opportunity before,” said Kulsoon. “But more and more women are expressing their interest in karate, and hopefully this endeavour will encourage other athletes.

We’ve been training for months now and the Asian Games are just what we needed at the moment to make a point.”

Strong contenders

Weightlifting

Pakistan’s weightlifters have previously won three medals at the Asian Games.

The Pakistan Weightlifting Federation has retained the Commonwealth Games squad for the upcoming continental event.

The team will feature Muhammad Habib Asgha in the 85kg category, Muhammad Shehzad in the 56kg competition, Haroon Shoukat in the 105kg category and Abu Sufyan in the 69kg event.

Karate

The Pakistan Karate Federation (PKF) is expecting a top-class performance from US Open champion Saadi Abbas in the 67kg event.

According to coach Khalid Noor, Abbas recently competed in the Karate Premier League in Turkey, thereby gaining the best possible practice for the Asian Games.

The male athlete is also the 2013 Commonwealth Karate Championship winner.

Rowing

Three promising Pakistan rowers will take part in the Asian Games in two different events.

Abdur Rehman will be competing in the single scull category, while Muhammad Tanveer and Muhammad Masood will take part in the light double scull event.

“Our rowers can finish among the top athletes in Incheon,” said Pakistan Rowing Federation official Abdul Rahim Babai.

Judo

The Pakistan Judo Federation (PJF) will be depending on 2014 Commonwealth Games silver-medallist Shah Hussain Shah to win another accolade for the country in Korea.

“The Asian Games will feature athletes from Japan, China, and Korea, who will field their best teams,” said PJF Secretary Masood Ahmed.

“However, Shah has the potential to surprise them.”

Medals tally for participating sports (1954-2010)

Sport                                   Gold                    Silver               Bronze                 Total

Field Hockey                          8                           2                        3                        13

Boxing                                    6                          20                      34                       60

Wrestling                               6                          14                      14                       34

Squash                                   2                           3                        2                         7

Cricket                                    1                           0                        1                         2

Kabaddi                                  0                           2                        4                         6

Tennis                                    0                           1                        2                         3

Weightlifting                          0                           1                        2                         3

Wushu                                    0                           1                        1                         2

Equestrian                              0                           1                        0                         1

Rowing                                   0                           0                        3                         3

Badminton                             0                           0                        1                         1

Volleyball                               0                           0                        1                         1

Published in The Express Tribune, September 19th, 2014.

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