KARACHI: Wrestler Muhammad Inam Butt won Pakistan its first gold medal in the 86kg freestyle wrestling on Saturday, saying he wanted to add some respect to the country’s 2018 Commonwealth Games campaign with a top podium finish.
The win moved Pakistan from a modest 31st position to 22nd in the rankings within a few hours courtesy Inam’s win, since before that they only had four bronze medals in their tally.
The 29-year-old triumphed over Nigeria’s Melvin Bibo 6-0 in the closing fight to earn the top spot on the podium.
Prior to his final fight, Inam beat Canada’s Alexander Moore and India’s Somveer in the semi-finals and quarter-finals, respectively. The champion began his winning campaign with a win over Australia’s Jayden Lawrence in his first match.
"It was such a big event and I felt that I needed to salvage some pride for Pakistan," Inam told The Express Tribune after the win. "It was embarrassing that we didn't win a single gold medal. I felt that I need to do something, something good, and I wanted that gold. I really wanted Pakistan to win in the games."
Inam added that each fight en route the gold was tough and defeating his final’s opponent Bibo, ranked second in the world was a challenge. Meanwhile, he said he was happy to win against India’s Somveer, who had earlier suffered a loss against.
"Every fight was do-or-die and each opponent was great, but Bibo has a reputation. Also, I had lost to Somveer before so I was going in with full force and determination to beat him. In fact the Canadian wrestler is among the top in the juniors so every victory was precious," explained Inam.
He added that the odds were against him since wrestling is an expensive sport and mostly wrestlers have to put in a lot of resources on their own, adding that the country needs to start investing in wrestling seriously.
"Odds were that we are fighting against countries who invest a lot in their athletes. India's budget is far more than ours, only for wrestlers, it is never easy for us," said Inam.
With the victory, Inam increased Pakistan’s medal tally at the Games to 42 — 21 gold, 11 silver and 10 bronze medals.
Call it determination or undeterred resolve, but Inam, just a day before his fight, had told The Express Tribune that he was targeting gold and nothing less.
“History proves that wrestlers are the best among Pakistani contingents at the Games. Wrestling has always been a success for us," Inam had told The Express Tribune on Friday.
Meanwhile, Pakistan's overall performance at the Games had been dreary. Talha Talib and Nooh Dastagir Butt won two bronze medals in 62kg and +105kg weightlifting events, while wrestler Muhammad Bilal won bronze on Thursday in 57kg event. Wrestler Tayyab Raza also won a bronze medal in the 125kg freestyle event on Saturday taking the country's medals tally to five.
Speaking about furthering Pakistan’s achievements in the sport, Inam said it is the long-term vision that matters. “Pakistan Wrestling Federation only had enough resources to send us to Iran for training and that too for a short period of 15 days,” he had said on Friday.
"We look at other countries like India, Australia and the English wrestlers; they get extensive training in camps abroad. The English coach told me they spent 18 months abroad to train their wrestlers, while we went to Iran for only 15 days,” he had highlighted.
“One cannot train with full force in such a short period. It would have been great if we could have trained for at least three months, but as athletes we give our best for Pakistan with the available resources," he had concluded.
Currently, Australia, England and India are leading the medals tally at the Games.
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