KARACHI: Two of Pakistan’s top athletes, sprinter Liaquat Ali and 800m specialist Rabia Ashiq, will participate in the London Olympics on wild cards, a top official of the Athletics Federation of Pakistan (AFP) said on Tuesday.
“Following the world athletics body’s instructions we have sent the names of two athletes, Liaquat Ali and Rabia Ashiq, and they will feature in the London Olympics on wild cards,” AFP President Major General (retd) Mohammad Akram Sahi confirmed to ‘The News’ in an interview.
“After we were offered two seats, we could not waste the opportunity. And if any problem of finances comes in the way we will overcome it,” added Sahi, also a former international athlete.
Former international athlete Bushra Parveen and Salman Butt, Punjab Athletics Association Secretary, will go along with the athletes as officials.
Rabia Ashiq, a cyclist-turned-athlete, created a stir in the National Championship in Lahore last year by lifting gold medals in five events and breaking a years-old record in 10,000m of Shazia by clocking 40:42.7.
The 20-year-old Rabia belongs to a modest family of Lahore. Her father is a mason. She is doing her graduation from a local college. Being an employee of WAPDA, she also supports her family.
Rabia, who is also included in the four-member Pakistan squad which will feature in the Asian Grand Prix in Bangkok from May 8-14, is really happy with the chance of playing in the London Olympics, a dream event for all athletes. “I am really happy that I will be participating in the London Olympics,” Rabia told ‘The News’ in an interview.
“I am still a youngster, but God Almighty has fulfilled my dream at such a young age. Olympics come after every four years and I am unable to express my happiness in words,” the ecstatic Rabia said.
Rabia is a long racer and usually competes in 400m, 800m, 1500m, 5000m and 10,000m. But 800m is her favourite event in which she will compete in London. “I will feature in the 800m in Olympics,” she said.
She bettered her personal best timing in the 800m by clocking 2.18 in the Asian Championship in Kobe (Japan) last year.
She also participated in the World Indoor Athletics Championship in Istanbul a couple of months back.
Interestingly, Rabia represented Punjab as a cyclist in the National Games in Karachi in 2007. Seeing her talent, former international triple jumper Zahid Aziz persuaded her to switch to athletics. She then appeared in the National Championship in Lahore in 2009 and lifted a silver medal. Since then she has been improving with high pace.
“My coach Bushra Parveen is working hard with me,” Rabia said. She said that Indian athlete Jhuma Khatun is her ideal whom she met during the Asian Championship in Japan and took tips from. “I am hopeful that I will be able to extend my best in London,” Rabia said.
Meanwhile, Pakistan’s fastest athlete Liaquat Ali said that participating in such a big event would be an occasion of pride for him. “I really feel proud and wish to perform well there,” Liaquat, who belongs to Army, told this correspondent.
Liaquat set a new national record in the 100m when he clocked 10.1 seconds in the National Championship last year. Although, it was manually recoded in the absence of electronic timer Liaquat said that he could do it with the electronic timer as well.
“I am confident that I will be able to do the same in the presence of electronic timer,” said the sprinter from Okara.
Liaquat got a silver medal in the 100m relay in the South Asian Athletics Championship in Cochin, India, in 2008.
In 2009, he took part in the World Championship in Germany. In 2010 Dhaka South Asian Games he got bronze medals in the 100m and 200m. Last year, in the Asian Championship in Japan he was disqualified after he had false-started in the 100m.
“I want to win a medal at the Asian level and in Olympics usually our athletes lose in the first round. Although it is a big event but at least one should clear one or two rounds. I would try to extend my best there,” said the 26-year-old athlete, whose ideal is American Tyson Gay.
Experts say had Liaquat not false-started in the Asian Championship last year, he could have surely ended with a medal.