By Syed Khalid Mahmood
Pakistan’s haul of seven medals in the recently held inaugural Asian Beach Games in Bali, Indonesia, has gladdened the hearts of the sports administrators of the country in particular. It has come as a very pleasant surprise for the Pakistan sports fraternity in general. The tally of medals included two gold, two silver and three bronze.
The wrestlers in particular have made the country proud by bringing home as many as four medals. Ghulam Haider captured the gold in the 65-kg weight category by overpowering Pahmi Pami Ginawan of Indonesia in the final.
Mohammad Ali had to settle with the silver after losing to Yun Seok Lee of South Korea in the 75-kg final while bronze medals were clinched by Usman Majeed and Mohammad Taseen in the 85-kg and the over 85-kg weight categories.
Pakistan’s other gold came in the handball event when they edged out Kuwait 2-1 in the final. In the earlier games they had registered victories over Japan, Indonesia and Qatar.
Pakistan also featured in the gold-medal kabaddi match but they were downed by arch-rivals India and had to be content with the silver.
Mohammad Imran Qureshi earned a bronze medal for the country in the 75-kg bodybuilding event after Khalid Ali had failed to advance in the finals of the 70-kg event.
The heartening performance of the Pakistan’s athletes in the Beach Games has provided the joy to the country’s sports fans that had not been coming their way for years.
The Pakistan Olympic Association (POA), whose President, General Syed Arif Hasan, has been proactive in bringing about the changes in the ranks of sports administration since taking over its leadership in 2004, deserves the credit for the success accomplished in the Asian Beach Games.
A firm believer in professional management, he has been particularly inclined towards training and grooming of the athletes, something that was non-existent or unheard of in the era before him. He has generated funds from the platform of the Pakistan Sports Trust (PST) to keep the POA and its affiliated units afloat.
His consistent policies are paying dividends now. He has been encouraging the innovative ideas and he was instrumental in facilitating the participation of the 41-member Pakistan squad in the first-ever Asian Beach Games.
The concept of Beach Games was new and it was quite refreshing to find Pakistan’s athletes adapting themselves better than their competitors. With the second Beach Games due to be held in Muscat, Sultanate of Oman, in a couple of years time there is ample time at the disposal of the POA to work out a strategy that could yield even better results than the one in Bali.
The officials of the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) are delighted by the success at Bali and they have planned to hold the Beach Games after every two years. In fact the venues of the next four editions have already been announced.
After Sultanate of Oman in 2010, the third Asian Beach Games will be staged in China in 2012 to be followed by one in Philippines in 2014 and in Thailand in 2016.
With the kind of success achieved in the inaugural event, should Pakistan not be getting ready to play host to the Beach Games in 2018?
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