KARACHI: Muhammad Inam is the most successful athlete Pakistan has produced in the last decade, and it is the wrestler’s resilience that sets him apart.
The 2018 Commonwealth gold medallist and two-time World Beach Wrestling Champion is aiming to be the first Pakistani to qualify for the World Beach Games, despite being forced to drop out of the Asian Championship in China this month due to lack of funds.
The Beach Wrestling World series in Rio de Janeiro is a qualifying round for the World Beach Games in October in the US.
“This is the first time that any Pakistani wrestler is attempting to go to World Beach Games,” Inam told The Express Tribune. “No one has qualified for World Beach Games, qualification before and I don’t want to go as a wild card. I want to win and qualify in Brazil that is where the qualifying round is.
I know the Asian Championship is gone, I’ve missed it, as much as it hurts, but I want to go for the World Beach Games qualifiers. The winner in Rio de Janeiro will get the point for the World Beach Games.”
His enthusiasm for the qualifiers in Brazil is mystical, where, despite knowing his chances for Olympics have diminished greatly, Inam wants to carry on with the spirit of doing his country proud and he has reset his goals, for now.
While wrestling for the Olympic qualification is a challenge itself, preparing for the World Beach Games qualifiers is another, as the two differ in format and surface. But Inam feels that is his destination to keep the dream of becoming the first Pakistani to win a World Beach Games medal.
But even though he needs to fly out in the first week of May, at latest by May 7 as the event will start by May 10, the funds are not sufficient and the Pakistan Wrestling Federation (PWF) is drained, while despite requesting numerous times, the Pakistan Sports Board or any government official has not come forward to support him monetarily.
Country’s top wrestler needs Rs700,000 to make sure he gets to Brazil.
“What worries me is that I’m asking the government to support me for training, I’m not asking for any property or money for my personal agenda. I am just requesting them to help me so that we can go to the events and make the country proud. Financial support is important for sportspeople, the private sector should come forward too. I need Rs700,000 to get to Brazil as well, and I have put forward my case before the PSB and now Sports Board Punjab to help me. I’m hoping to hear from Punjab Board by Monday,” said Inam.
He added that the federation was scheduled to get their grant of Rs1.8 million by the government, but they did not and the wrestler had to prepare in his home-town of Gujranwala, at his own akhara (wrestling gym) to make sure that he does not miss any opportunity to train for the Asian Championships and the World Beach Games qualifier.
The Asian Championships were also his chance to qualify for the 2020 Olympics and stay in the running to chase that ultimate dream, but maybe being a world class wrestler in Pakistan is not enough to get sponsors or government’s assistance, despite getting his Pride of Performance award last month.
“Missing the qualifiers only highlights the fact that 60 per cent of my chance is gone. Now the rest that is left in 40 per cent, but I need funds for it, to even go to the remaining two to three qualifying rounds,” explained Inam. “For that even, I will need to focus, two to three months for training abroad, in US, Bulgaria or even Iran.”
The 30-year-old has proven himself more than once. He became the first Pakistani last year to win back-to-back world titles at the World Beach Championships, and successfully defended his title from 2017.
Even with that achievement, there was not much support from the government.
The best he got was a Pride of Performance award; however, what does that award do, without government supporting its top athlete.
The apathy may just be enough to make any athlete quit the sport, but Inam believes he needs to continue, not for himself but for wrestling itself in Pakistan and the students he has at his akhara.
“If we won’t continue wrestling then who would?” said the 2010 Commonwealth Games gold medallist. “Who will do this? I can quit it, but I want to stay motivated.”
“The motivation comes from the young wrestlers I see at my akhara. They look up to me, they look forward to everything I do, and if I would go on back-foot than these children, they will stop too. So I have to build my motivation to continue. Whenever there are problems like these with events, and participation, I just go to my akhara and look at the children, I know they look up to me,” said Inam.
He has also been training for at least six hours a day to prepare for his 90kg event in Brazil.
He said that there will be competition with top wrestlers in the world from countries including Iran, Georgia, Russia, central Asian states and even the US, where the World Beach Games will take place in October.
And for now he is hoping for the support and funds to come his way, so that he does not have to miss another event, just because he is a wrestler and not a cricketer in Pakistan.