Having risen to fame after winning a gold medal at the South Asian Federation Games in 2010, Naseem Hameed has braved much rigorous training and many wagging tongues.
For the 25-year-old ‘Queen of Tracks’, success came with a price. People regarded her hard-earned victory to be a matter of good luck, rather than a fruit of persistent hard work. Having quit sports altogether, she says, “Whoever says it was a fluke for me forgets that I proved myself, I won the 100-metre event at the National Games in Peshawar 2010 before quitting.”
Hameed earned the nick-name ‘queen of track’ when she covered 100-metres in just 11.81 seconds, and out-ran 40 other sprinters including Sri Lanka’s Pramila Priyadarshani and Achala Shalika Dias who took silver and bronze in the race. “I am not scared of competition. If I was, I wouldn’t have competed in the National Games at all,” the ‘Queen of Track’ was quick to prove her nerves of steel.
Having begun running as a sprinter at the age of 14 at the Government Girls School in Korangi, she later represented her college at the National Championships for Army and her consistent performance earned her a spot in the national squad for the 2010 South Asian Games. After spending 12 years as a professional athlete since the age of 16, Hameed says that she now wants to work as an athletics coach. She has decided to give back to the community by training underprivileged children in Korangi and also working as a full-time coach with Aman Foundation, along with helping aspiring athletes in different schools.
Hameed’s story was that of instant fame: President Asif Ali Zardari named her the Ambassador of Sports, while announcing cash awards, and the promise of a flat in the Defence Housing Authority. However, three years down the lane, fame caused Hameed some embarrassment and disappointment.
“I never got anything from the government, I’m still living in Korangi, and I’m never leaving the area because that’s where I belong. When I go out with my family or to a bazaar, people recognise me and they ask whether I’m living in a flat in Defence that the government gave me. I sometimes tend to avoid people because it’s embarrassing” said Hameed.
Meanwhile, she said that although the promised awards never arrived, she is not bitter. She said that her biggest achievement will be the “Naseem Hameed Sports Academy” which is under-construction in Korangi and will start running by the end of this year.
However, looking back at the fame, and the fortune, that never came her way, Hameed said that the most disappointing factor and the reason behind her quitting the sport was the lack of support from the government and sports authorities.
“Of course my next goal was to participate in the 2012 Olympics after winning the SAG gold medal, any athlete would dream about that,” said Hameed, lamenting her disassociation from future competitions.
As for the current state of athletics in the country and particularly in Sindh, Hameed said that the basic facilities need to improve in order to produce world class sprinters.
She said that she herself used to train at the National Coaching Centre in Karachi, but the running track over there too has not been maintained, therefore her goal is to provide a proper track to aspiring athletes. Hameed still lives in Korangi with her parents and two siblings her sister being an aspiring footballer.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 3rd, 2013.