By Ali Waseem Hashmi –
Pakistan clinched four medals in this year’s edition of the Commonwealth Games, 3 silvers and 1 bronze. Three of these medals came from the same sporting event, wrestling. Wrestler Qamar Abbas grabbed a silver in the free-style, 74 kilogram category, losing to his Indian rival Sushil Kumar in the final.
Wrestler Azhar Hussain won bronze in the same sport, throwing his South African opponent out of the ring within three minutes of the match. Hussain previously won a gold medal in Delhi during the 2010 Commonwealth Games. The third medal winner was Shah Hussain Shah who bagged a silver in the 100-kg Judo event.
Finally, rounding up Pakistan’s podium placers was boxer Muhammad Waseem, who won silver in the 52-kg flyweight category. The 26-year-old from Quetta lost to Australia’s Andrew Maloney 3-0 in the final.
Pakistan’s medal haul obviously pales in comparison to the winners, England, who topped the Commonwealth Games with a total of 174 medals including 58 gold ones. Australia ranked second with 137 medals, hosts Scotland grabbed 53 but it was neighbours India who really outshined all regional rivals with a very impressive total of 64 medals.
India’s tally reflects especially badly on Pakistan, which, despite having competed in 12 of the 20 previous Commonwealth Games, has managed to only win 69 medals overall; just 5 more than what Indian won this year alone.
The Commonwealth Games is an international, multi-sport event involving athletes from the Commonwealth of Nations, nations which were formerly (and in some cases still are) under the administrative charter of the British Empire. The event was first held in 1930, and, with the exception of 1942 and 1946, which were cancelled due to World War II, has taken place every four years since then.
The games feature mostly Olympic sporting events, with a heavy focus on athletics and technical events like shooting. Pakistan’s most successful games were in 1962 where we finished 4th in the overall rankings and won 8 gold medals. Unsurprisingly, wrestling is where most of our medals have come from, an overwhelming 37 medals out of the total of 69. Athletics, weightlifting and boxing are the only other events where Pakistan has won multiple medals.
This year Pakistan sent 48 participants, 10 of which were women. While they competed enthusiastically, the truth of the matter is that it was simply token participation for the majority of them. Most finished last or close to the bottom. This isn’t criticism of the athletes themselves of course, but of the sorry state of athletics and sports in the country.
With such a heavy commercial and administrative focus on cricket, all other sports are left under-financed, under-coached and without adequate facilities for aspiring athletes. Even the traditionally strong sports like wrestling are under threat of becoming uncompetitive on the international stage.
All the successful commonwealth nations bring their athletes through sports scholarships and years of corporate sponsored tutelage. In Pakistan, the desire for athletic achievement must usually be funded out of one’s own pocket, and pursued outside of the educational/vocational circuit.
The writer is a journalist based in Islamabad