KARACHI: It is quite easy to pursue any sport as a career if your family has been playing it for more than a decade, but if your family is engaged in different sports, it becomes a challenge to achieve success.
This relates to the story of a 22-year-old Badminton player Mahoor Shahzad who, at a very young age, topped the charts of the national rankings and soon became the first Pakistani to enter the top 200 (192) female badminton player in the world. She is currently ranked at 204.
The daughter of a former badminton player and veteran rower Muhammad Shahzad and a sister of weightlifter Rabia Shahzad, Mahoor chose badminton at the age of 11.
Her father recently became the national veterans champion, while her sister Rabia bagged gold at the Ralph Cashman Open Weightlifting Championship in New South Wales, Australia. Her elder sister Faryal Shahzad has also been a national junior champion but has now left the sport for studies.
“I had interest in badminton since childhood, Mahoor told The Express Tribune. “Me and Faryal started playing badminton together and then we became the national junior champions, but soon Faryal left the game for her studies and I continued along with my studies.”
“Rabia had weak eyesight so she couldn’t play badminton. She was interested in power games since the beginning. She used to wrestle with us and our father so she tried different sports, but then chose weightlifting after watching Twinkle Sohail.”
“I and Faryal at an early age used to go for running and training with our father, then soon we started playing badminton on the streets. After a year our father took membership at the local club where we used to practice with our father in the morning and then with the coaches — Iftikhar, Imran and Ali Mehdi — in the evening,” she added.
Mahoor’s passion took her places as she, at the age of 13, participated in the National U19 Championship for the first time and came out victorious.
“That was the time when my parent got to know that I have the potential to play at the international level for Pakistan. My father also asked me to only pursue badminton if I want to play at the international level.”
Around seven hours of practice every day soon reaped rewards as Mahoor became Pakistan’s number one female badminton player, just at the age of 16, surpassing Palwasha Bashir who had been Pakistan’s number one a long time.
Mahoor is known for her smart movement in the court and she knows how to use that strength against opponents.
“One of the positives is that I have good court movement. I don’t do negatives while others do. This is what helped me set my target of achieving medals at the international level.”
“Also I have good reflexes which are important while reacting to shots, the quicker your reflexes are the less time the opponent gets,” she said. “Also, the accuracy of the shot is important.”
Talking about the comparison of Indian players with Pakistani players she said: “People usually compare us with Indian players, but they don’t see the difference in the level of available facilities. In India they have proper academies where the players stay and practice all day, they even get their tuitions at the academies, while here we only have limited public clubs. Others are mostly private and you have to train on your own.”
Meanwhile, studies haven’t hindered Mahoor’s journey with the racquet. She not only did well at events but also completed her BBA in Finance and Marketing from IBA in Karachi and is now aiming to become a Charted Accountant.
“I took admission in IBA in 2014 and at that time my father asked me to go to some other university where attendance won’t be a problem, but I continued at IBA. I asked my Dean Ishrat Hussain and Farooq Iqbal to support me if I miss my quizzes and exams during competitions. Their positive reply helped me a lot.”
During her BBA, she participated in the Asian Games, the Commonwealth Games and other international tours, but she did not score low in studies, and for this effort she was awarded a special “Excellence of Sport” award along with her degree at the 2018 IBA Convocation, a first for the university as well.
Need of the Hour
Pakistan is quite behind in badminton and Mahoor thinks that building more academies and playing international tournaments can bring Pakistan on top.
“I have been selected in Asian Olympic Project under which they sponsored four tournaments in 2018 and will do four more in 2019. I have to play 10-15 tournaments in a year if I want to qualify for Olympics to push my rankings into top 70. The government should release funds which is the biggest hurdle in our progress.”