London Paralympics: Pakistan’s long-jumper aims higher

Haider Ali country’s main hope of medal at Games.

Nabeel Hashmi August 31, 2012

KARACHI: Pakistan failed to make an impression at the London Olympics but the Paralympics will be a different story altogether, said a confident coach Akbar Ali Mughal, adding that athlete Haider Ali’s chances were bright in the event.

Haider, who suffers from Cerebral Palsy, took part in the men’s long jump at the 2008 Beijing event and jumped 6.44 metres to take silver. Tunisia’s Farhat Chida covered the same distance but won a gold medal after six successful jumps, while Haider had two of his attempts rejected. Both scored a total of 1,104 points, a world record in the Paralympics. Now, Mughal said that Pakistan’s chances of clinching its first gold at the Paralympics rested on Haider.

“Ali is our main hope,” Mughal told The Express Tribune. “I’m hoping that all the training he has put in will help him reach new heights as planned. I won’t reveal his jumps’ distances but I’m confident that he has the potential to better the previous record.”

‘One can’t expect big things from Masih’

Pakistan’s other athlete, Naeem Masih, will be in action today in the men’s 1,500m heat and Mughal said it will not be fair to expect big things from him as the Games are his first major event.

“It’s a big occasion for Masih and we only hope that he gives his best because medals are a far cry. His best is 4:46 and he’s recorded 4:40 in training but that is far from the standards of other top athletes.”

Packed crowds for start of Games athletics

Meanwhile, a near capacity crowd at the Olympic Stadium greeted the first day of athletics at the Paralympics, as the first medals were contested in the field events.

Nearly 80,000 people packed into the venue in east London, roaring T54 wheelchair racers around the track in the women’s 5,000m heats.

“It was great, I’ve never experienced such a crowd in the morning. We all raced very well,” said Switzerland’s Edith Wolf, who won the second heat. “After Beijing I never thought I would have such a super cool feeling. The crowd was perfect.” Diane Roy, of Canada, who also qualified for Sunday’s final, added, “I’m very surprised. I was thinking that in the morning it would be empty but the stadium was almost full, so it was really nice.”

The atmosphere replicated that at the Olympics earlier this month, where heats also took place to a near full-house. The Paralympics, billed by organisers as the biggest and most high-profile in its history, is a near sell-out.

Elsewhere, Felicity Johnson and Stephanie Morton gave Australia another track cycling gold in the velodrome, beating Britain’s Aileen McGlynn and Helen Scott in the women’s blind and visually impaired 1km time trial.

New Zealand’s Philippa Gray and Laura Thompson claimed bronze. (With additional input from afp)

Published in The Express Tribune, September 1st, 2012.


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