KARACHI: Pakistan Taekwondo Federation (PTF) president Lt Col Waseem Ahmed said on Sunday that the country had talented players who are capable of qualifying for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
“We have a few fine future prospects. Iqbal and Fahim are highly talented. They have proved that they can qualify for 2020 Tokyo Olympics if properly trained,” Waseem told ‘The News’ in an interview.
“There are a couple of girls, including Nimra Wasiq, who lives in America, and Ayesha Noor, who is a student of Karachi University, who are highly talented. They put up impressive performances in the World Championship in South Korea recently, giving tough time to much better players in the world,” he said.
“There are a few others, but these four are quite young. We can spend money on their training,” he said. “Fahim is 24, Mohammad Iqbal is just 17, Nimra is also 17, while Ayesha is 19,” the official said.
“The federation has been constantly working on these kids and our main aim is to prepare them for the 2020 Olympic qualification rounds which are expected to be held in November 2019 and January 2020,” he said.
Waseem said that it would not be possible for the PTF to bear the expenses. “You know it’s a tough task we are undertaking. The government will have to invest. We will need to train them abroad for at least three months. Russia, Turkey and a few nations in Europe would be appropriate to send a couple of players, particularly Iqbal and Fahim,” Waseem said.
“The government can give us half of our annual grant in the year in which it finances our budding players in their preparation on foreign soil. I will have no objection. If the government spends directly on these players it can do so if it does not want to transfer money to the federation. We want to see our players properly trained, nothing else,” Waseem added.
He said that there was great need of working at the grassroots level. “If you look at the last year’s Rio Olympics statistics you may find that 85 percent of medals were won by young players. We start training a player when he or she has crossed 20. The developed nations start focusing on their talented players when they are much younger,” he said.
“Iqbal hails from Chaghi. He is extremely talented. He has a good height but he needs strength and conditioning,” he said.“He has eight or nine brothers and sisters. He gets only Rs6000 in salary from Railways. In the World Championship he gave tough time to an Olympian from Jordon. For one and a half round Iqbal offered good resistance but after that the Olympian showed his class. But the way Iqbal played showed that he has the spark to achieve something big on the world stage,” Waseem said.
“In the World Championship Fahim beat a player from Ukraine before he went down to the world champion who belonged to Iran,” he said.“I hope when the world rankings are released by the end of this month both Iqbal and Fahim are in the top hundred,” he said.
He said that these players along with a few more would also be featuring in the Asian Indoor and Martial Games to be held in Turkmenistan capital Ashgabat from September 17-27. He said that the PTF had written to Pakistan Sports Board (PSB) to hold a training camp as soon as possible.
He said that Pakistan would also try to ensure a token participation in the Commonwealth Championship in Montreal in September as its dates clash with the Ashgabat event.It is pertinent to mention here that Japan-based judoka Shah Hussain was the first Pakistani martial arts player who featured in the 2016 Rio Olympics on the basis of continental quota.But Waseem said that he would like to see his players directly qualify for the 2020 Tokyo. “It would be of no use if your player featured on the basis of any quota,” he said.