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Talha Talib had a near-miss at Tokyo. But Pakistanis’ worry is small Olympics contingent

The 2016 Olympics was Pakistan’s worst ever performance to date, with the smallest contingent and no medal to their name.

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New Delhi: Twenty-one-year-old Pakistani weightlifter Talha Talib nearly made history at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. But what is really upsetting Pakistanis these days is the company they are in at Tokyo. Like Panama and Mozambique, Pakistan has also sent just 10 athletes to the Olympics this year.

It is higher than their seven-member team that went to the Rio games in 2016, but just a wee bit.

Panama has 43 lakh people and Mozambique 3.23 crore, far less than that of Pakistan’s 22.56 crore. In comparison, countries like Namibia, Uruguay, Cameroon, Cyprus, Ghana, and Angola have sent more athletes.

As Pakistani fans rejoiced at Talib’s feat, who stood fifth in the 67 kg men’s weightlifting contest, many are also berating the chronic neglect of sports and the obsession with cricket.


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‘Help athletes’ appeal

Pakistani cricketer Shadab Khan urged sponsors to help athletes like Talib.

Javeria Khan, an all-rounder from Pakistan women’s cricket team, said Talib has already made the country proud.

Social media was abuzz with people who spoke about the lack of training programmes, how cricket gets special treatment and when Pakistan won its last Olympic medal — a bronze in 1992 by the hockey team. This is the second consecutive games when the hockey team has failed to qualify.

 

Cricket author at ESPN, Danyal Rasool shared “a rather unflattering sports stat” on Twitter.

 

Apart from Talib, Pakistan has sent sprinter Najma Parveen and javelin thrower Arshad Nadeem; badminton player Mahoor Shahzad; Judoka Hussain Shah; shooters Muhammad Khalil Akhtar, Ghulam Mustafa Bashir and Gulfam Joseph; and swimmers Muhammad Haseeb Tariq and Bisma Khan.

Cricketer Imran Nazir did not hold back as he expressed his disappointment regarding the decline of sports in Pakistan.

 

Others hit out at Lt Gen (retd) Syed Arif Hasan, who has remained president of the Pakistan Olympics Association for nearly two decades without ensuring a medal.


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Poor sports budget

The 2016 Olympics was Pakistan’s worst ever performance to date, with the smallest contingent and no medal to their name. “Each time, there has been a hue and cry over the dismal state of affairs but the fact is that Pakistan continue[s] to nosedive further as time passes and one isn’t even sure if they have hit their lowest point yet,” a 2016 editorial in Pakistani daily Express Tribune argued.

Reasons for Pakistan’s non-performance at the Olympics vary from an increasing disinterest in hockey, a game that has largely contributed to its medals tally at Olympics, to the country’s socio-economic conditions. With just two new schemes worth Rs 595 million, sports found little mention in the 2020-2021 financial budget.

Views are personal.

(Edited by Anurag Chaubey)

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