KARACHI: Naseem Hameed won gold at the 100m sprint at the 2010 South Asian Games, earning the moniker of the fastest woman in South Asia, only to stop competing soon after. But her passion for athletics has not deserted her and she was a major driving force behind the positive impact Pakistani athletes made during the inaugural Street Child Games in Brazil.
But she remains humble, claiming it was the children who were talented to begin with, and she only helped them in understanding technique related to athletics and sprinting.
“I feel so proud of these children. They are our future regardless of where they come from,” 28-year-old Hameed told The Express Tribune.
Pakistan’s Muhammad Naeem, Mehar Ali and Naseer Ahmed took the world by surprise as they clean-sweeped the 100m and 400m races; winning gold, silver and bronze.
Hameed had been helping the boys for two months at her academy before they left for Rio.
“It was just amazing; the experience itself as well as how quickly these children adapt to athletics from football,” she said. “They were always eager to learn.”
Looking back at her own career, she said that her focus and passion helped her win the title of the fastest woman in South Asia in 2010.
While she said Naeem, Ali and Ahmed are naturally talented, they require a proper rest and diet regime to challenge the very best. “Agility is god-gifted, no one can teach that,” she said. “What I did tell them was how to build their stamina before the event, what kind of food to eat and have plenty of rest. But knowing where these children were coming from, I don’t think they would get any of these. I know because I’ve been through the same challenges.”
Considering the hurdles they have had to overcome, their achievement is groundbreaking. “They are as good as our national athletes,” said Hameed.
Naseem strives for under-privileged children to take up sports in order to make a better life for themselves. Her academy began this year and still needs facilities such as a gym, but says her grounds are open for all.
“Of course we need funds, but sports shouldn’t stop because of that. It took me some time to start the academy because we didn’t have a grass ground, but now we do,” she said. “The aim is to help athletes from less privileged backgrounds to come forward, because they have natural talent, and they shouldn’t be left behind.”
Published in The Express Tribune, April 1st, 2016.