The teenager who shoulders the expectations of a nation

Nooh talks exclusively to The Express Tribune about future plans

Natasha Raheel April 14, 2016
Nooh, who has five gold medals to his name, is hoping to add an Olympic gold to his tally. PHOTO COURTESY: PAKISTAN WEIGHTLIFTING FEDERATION

KARACHI: “I don’t have time to party. I just live for that one moment; when I get to win a gold medal. I want as many gold medals as I can,” said Nooh Dastagir Butt, the 18-year-old Pakistani weightlifter who is currently the country’s main hope of making it to the Rio Olympics.

Nooh, who turned 18 in February, celebrated his birthday by claiming gold at the South Asian Games’ 105kg super-heavyweight category.

More recently, at the National Junior and Seniors Championship, Nooh managed to break the national record by lifting 206kg in a clean and jerk event — the previousnational record was 200kg.

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Some might wonder what keeps him motivated to succeed at such an early age but for the teenager, only the sense of achievement is what matters. “I don’t go out much; I just focus on my training. No parties, no going out with friends on a weekend; not even weddings. I just make sure nothing breaks my routine,” Nooh, who is currently preparing for the Asian Championships which serve as a qualifier for the Olympics, told The Express Tribune.

Nooh won his first title at the Punjab Championships in 2013 and became a national junior champion a year later. He then went on to claim five gold medals — one each at the South Asian Games and the Commonwealth Youth Championship and three more at the Asian Youth Championship — and is aiming to add more to his tally if he makes it to the Olympics.

The Gujranwala-based athlete revealed he got into the sport because of his father, Ghulam Dastagir Butt.

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Ghulam, who was a national weightlifter in the 90s, got selected to represent the country at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics but mismanagement on the Pakistan Weightlifting Federation’s part caused him to miss the event, and Nooh stated that he wants to fulfil his father’s dream by making it to the Olympics.

“My father really wants to see me at the Olympics; that’s his dream,” said Nooh. “I grew up watching my father and I want to fulfil his dream by winning gold at the Olympics.”

Nooh further revealed that he finds Russian weightlifters extremely impressive and Aleksandr Kurlovich, an Olympic gold-medallist, is his biggest inspiration. “I’ve been really impressed by Russian weightlifters as they are strong. Aleksandr Kurlovich is my favourite. I want to be a world and Olympic champion like him,” he said.

The teenager, who is looking forward to participating in the Asian Championships and the Junior World Weightlifting Championships, feels that a 200kg lift could well secure his place in Rio.

“I have two really good events coming up and I have the record to back me. But I’ll keep giving myself reality checks so I don’t get carried away. Athletes from other countries have better facilities to train on and I need to be wary,” he added.

Nooh also feels that the government should do more to promote other sports other than cricket. “Weightlifting is a challenging sport,” said Nooh. “We have to train really hard to ensure we are in prime shape. Weightlifting is a high-pressure sport and the government should support the athletes or at least acknowledge their achievements.”

Published in The Express Tribune, April 14th,  2016.

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