KARACHI: "It's the second time he is there, isn't that something?" Pakistan's 2014 Winter Olympian Mohammad Karim's brother and skier Sher Afzal say, as the opening ceremony of the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea runs on the television. “That's my brother and the other skier is Syed Human, my nephew. Can you believe it? Our very own boys."
Pakistan may have a small history at the Winter Games but it surely is a remarkable one. The country made their debut at the Games in 2010 with Muhammad Abbas becoming the first Winter Olympian for Pakistan, while the 23-year-old Karim is at the Games for the second time in his career.
This fact says a lot about the skiing sanctuary Naltar, which has produced three Winter Olympians now for the country, with the 25-year-old Human, who has also been the national cross country champion while representing Army domestically, making his debut at this year’s Games.
Human had a great time in Finland competing in three races while also skiing in other four in Turkey to qualify for the Games' cross-country event. Karim, meanwhile, went to Turkey for the qualifiers, but his trip was cut short as he had to come back for his mother. He never started his last race in Turkey at the Giant Slalom event on January 6.
"It's a great achievement for us, I'm a skier myself, I know this is huge, Karim has done it again, we are so happy for him" Afzal, a Pakistan Air Force skier told The Express Tribune. "My whole family can't contain themselves. It’s two of our boys, but then it's a great thing for the entire country. They are representing Pakistan at the highest level. Everyone in Gilgit-Baltistan is proud, my small village Naltar is proud, it's something that will remain with us all forever."
Karim will ski in the Slalom and Giant Slalom events on February 18 and 22, while Human will have his debut run on February 16, and Afzal says that everyone in Naltar will be watching them.
"I'm excited we have the setup at the PAF base here and we'll watch them take that run," said Afzal.
Karim will be looking to improve Pakistan's 2014 Winter Olympics record, where he finished the first run on a 4,495 feet track in one minute and 43.44 seconds in the Giant Slalom event, outpacing an Indian skier and ending the event on 71st position.
"I know for sure that Karim will make us proud,” Karim’s brother Afzal added. “When he was leaving I told him that he is doing great and that he needs to raise the Pakistan flag high.”