Tokyo Olympics 2020: Who Are Pakistan’s 10 Olympians?
Tokyo Olympics 2020 which had to be delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic began last Friday, making headlines around the world. And like always, it brought into the spotlight Pakistan’s Olympic delegation consisting of a meagre number of participants – 10. Although surprising to many, this is is not as shocking for those familiar with the situation of sports apart from cricket in the country. Consider the lack of funds and support as well as the deteriorating condition of the Pakistan Olympic Federation. Regardless, it is not difficult to imagine the struggle and grit of young stars who have made it to join the Olympic race.
This year marks the country’s ninth appearance in the games and Pakistan has 10 competitors in six sports which include: Athletics, Badminton, Judo, Shooting, Swimming and Weightlifting. It is worth mentioning that Pakistani athletes further achieved the entry standards, either by qualifying time or by world ranking, in the following track and field events (up to a maximum of 3 athletes in each event).
Following is a brief introduction to this year Olympians from Pakistan participating in six sports.
For athletics we have Najma Parveen, a sprinter with a phenomenal record since 2010. The Faisalabad runner first participated in the 2016 Rio Olympics on the basis of wild card. In the women’s 200 metres race, her time of 26.11 seconds amid the heats could not qualify her for the semi-finals. She then set records in 2019 National Games in Peshawar and carried the form into the 13th South Asian Games in Nepal in December 2019 where she snatched a 400m hurdles gold. She has also won two silver medals and a bronze. This will be Najma’s second Olympics as she represents Pakistan in women 200m race on 2 August 2020.
Another star participating in athletics is Arshad Nadeem. Nadeem has the world’s sixth-best javelin throw of the year — a personal best at 86.38 metres achieved in April in Iran which led to his spot in this year’s Olympics.
Arshad is a versatile performer who gave up his dream of cricket to become an athlete. The national star who plays for WAPDA in domestic games has participated in a number of international competitions. In 2017, Nadeem won a bronze medal with a best throw of 76.33 metres at the Islamic Solidarity Games in Baku. He has also participated in common wealth Games 2018, followed by the 2018 Asian Games in Indonesia where he won a bronze medal. He was the only Pakistani athlete at the 2019 World Athletics Championships in Doha, Qatar. In December 2019, he won a gold medal with an 86.29 metre record throw at the 13th South Asian Games in Nepal.
For the first time in history, Pakistan entered one badminton player into the Olympic tournament. Mahnoor Shahzad accepted the invitation from the Tripartite Commission and the Badminton World Federation to compete in the women’s singles. Mahnoor Shahzad who is also the flag bearer of Pakistan for the games has competed in 2014 Asian Games and 2018 Common Wealth Games. She was also the women’s single champion (both 2017 and 2019) at the Pakistan International Tournament.
Pakistan qualified one judoka for the men’s half-heavyweight category (100 kg) at the Games. Rio 2016 Olympian Shah Hussain Shah accepted a continental berth from the Asian zone as the nation’s top-ranked judoka with the qualifying position in the IJF World Ranking List of June 2021. Currently based in Japan, he was also Pakistan’s flag bearer in 2016 Olympics and has participated in the Commonwealth Games 2014 where he was runner up.
He has participated in Asian Judo championships (2013 and 2015) where he won bronze medals and represented Pakistan in South Asian games (2016 and 2019). Shah won 2 gold medals in 100 kg division. He also represented Pakistan in 2018 Asian Games where he won a bronze medal in 100Kg division.
Pakistani shooters achieved quota places for the following events by virtue of their best finishes at the 2018 ISSF World Championships, the 2019 ISSF World Cup series, and Asian Championships, as long as they obtained a minimum qualifying score (MQS) by May 31, 2020.
Muhammad Khalil Akhtar will compete in the men’s 25 metre rapid fire pistol event at the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics. Khalil Akhtar is also bearer of Pakistan’s flag at the Opening Ceremony, along with Mahnoor Shehzad. He has also competed in the 2018 world championship and Asian Games as well as 2018 Commonwealth Games where he came 6th and the 2019 Asian championship where he stood 8th. After receiving an Olympic scholarship, he qualified at the 2019 International Shooting Sport Federation World Cup in Rio, where he finished at 6th position.
Along with Khalil, Ghulam Mustafa Babar will compete in the men’s 25 metre rapid fire pistol event at the 2020 Olympics. He has also competed in the men’s 25 metre rapid fire pistol event at the 2016 Summer Olympics, where he finished 18th .
Gulfam Joseph from Pakistan is also participating in the 10m air pistol shooting. Joseph, hailing from Jhelum, was the biggest surprise entry in Olympics from Pakistan. He booked his place for Olympics quota place through his performance at the 14th Asian Championship in Doha in November 2019. Joseph unfortunately did not qualify for the final spot and was ranked at 9th spot below the qualifying one.
Pakistan received a universality invitation from FINA to send two top-ranked swimmers (one per gender) in their respective individual events to the Olympics, based on the FINA Points System of June 2021.
It includes Muhammad Haseeb Tariq who will be representing Pakistan in the men 100m free style. He has also participated in Aquatic World championship 2019 in South Korea and Asian Games 2018.
Bisma Khan is representing Pakistan in 50m freestyle. She has represented Pakistan in 2018 Asian Games in Jakarta, 2019 Aquatics Championships in South Korea. She has won the silver medal in women’s 200 metre individual medley event at the 2019 South Asian Games held in Nepal.
Pakistan received an invitation from the Tripartite Commission and the IWF to send Talha Talib in the men’s 67-kg category to the Olympics, marking the country’s return to the sport for the first time since 1976. Talha was also a gold medalist at the 2016 Commonwealth Youth Weightlifting Championships in Penang. He lifted 258 kg to clinch the gold.
He also competed at the 2018 Commonwealth Games and won a bronze medal in the 62 kg category, lifting a total of 283 kg at the age of 18.Talha has finished up at 5th in the 2020 Olympics.
Medal or not, Pakistanis should be extremely proud of their talented athletes who made out to the Olympics. They are a true representation of hard work and perseverance as most of them worked independently without any support from the government. Regardless of that, it has been a huge disappointment that Pakistan has participated in only 6 out of the 28 Olympics 2020 games, also excluding Hockey – which is our national sport. However, this year’s participation gives hopes to future athletes and is a wakeup call to our officials. There is a dire need for improving facilities and providing opportunities to our athletes who have the potential to become the best in the world.