KARACHI: Pakistan will be fielding just two judokas at the Asian Games after the national federation was told to cut down their squad from seven due to financial constraints.
Last month, the Pakistan Olympic Association (POA) announced that the strength of the Asian Games contingent has been reduced from 300 to 254 as the Pakistan Sports Board (PSB) does not have the means to send the initially promised number of participants. Now it is up to the federations and the players to self-finance their trip to Jakarta for the event that begins on August 17.
Pakistan will be harbouring hopes from the judokas to win them medals as Japan-based athlete and 2014 Commonwealth Games silver medallist Shah Hussain Shah and 2016 South Asian Games gold medallist Qaisar Khan will take part in -100 and -90 kg categories this month.
Initially the Pakistan Judo Federation (PJF) had chosen three girls and four boys for the Asian Games, but they did not get enough encouragement or assistance from the POA or the PSB, as the players did not get any national camp due to the tiff between the two bodies.
“We wanted to send our full strength squad, but now we have to settle with just two players,” PJF official Masood Ahmed told The Express Tribune. “It is hurting us because now with two players we can’t compete at the team event and no participation for women either. It is discouraging because the POA is still not on very good terms with us due to the tiff between the PSB and themselves that the federations were dragged into. Now the PSB is sponsoring our two judokas.”
However, Ahmed added that it is still a better scenario than 2014 Games that only featured Hussain.
Meanwhile, the PJF had also planned to send the athletes to Hungary for training before the games, but Ahmed said that due to the late decision by the POA and PSB they could not take steps to finalise the camps abroad or locally.
“They decided on our participation at a very late stage,” said Ahmed. “But some participation is better than no participation.”
Bannu-based teenager Qaisar also became the first Pakistani last month to be in the International Judo Federation’s (IJF) top 20 ranking in the cadet category and bagged a silver medal at the Asian Junior Cup Cadet championship in Macau, a bronze medal in Hong Kong at the Asian Cup Cadet event and he also finished fifth at the Asian Junior Championships in Hong Kong last month. He also won bronze in Kyrgyzstan in June.
“We can win the medals. We know our boys have the potential, Qaiser is competing at the Asian Games for the first time. He is in good form and he competes in cadet events but this is a seniors’ event so it will be tough. Hussain on the other hand has more experience. We are going with our best options,” said Ahmed.