KARACHI: Israr Hussain applied to be part of the army aged 18.
Little did he know that all his battles would take place in the swimming pool – the 25-year-old was one of the two Olympics wild-card beneficiaries in Pakistan. The decision came as a surprise to him, especially after a less-than-satisfactory performance in the Fina World Championships last year that also served as qualifiers for the London Games. Training with the army right now, the wild-card entry is a dream come true for him.
“For an athlete, the ultimate goal is to represent his country in the Olympics,” Israr told The Express Tribune. “It’s a huge achievement on a personal level more than anything else. I know I’m the quickest male swimmer in the country and lucky to make the cut. But never in my dreams had I seen this coming.”
While it was at the Army compounds where he began swimming, he always loved to swim as a child while living in the outskirts of Rawalpindi. His father convinced him to join the forces and the sport only became a passion when he started competing in the national championships for his department. He is currently training at least five days a week to ensure a respectable show in London.
“Swimming is one of the most popular sports in the world. Therefore, the level of competition is also extremely high. In Pakistan, we aren’t as competitive as we should be but there has been a lot of progress over the years. At the camps organised by the army, we get training from foreign coaches regularly. My current coach is in Italy right now but when he returns, he will teach me new techniques to help me get an edge over my opponents in London.”
Israr acknowledged the need to improve his timings drastically in order to be counted in the Olmypics.
“I have a month left to improve on my personal best of 57.69 seconds and aim for something much better in the region of 51 seconds, which is an average time that international swimmers take to finish a 100-metre freestyle race. I’m still trying to get there.”
Published in The Express Tribune, June 14th, 2012.
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