PESHAWAR: Eighteen-year-old Muhammad Rameez Khan from the small Swat town of Barikot has just left for the United Kingdom to represent Pakistan in a 62-member contingent in table tennis for the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games, July 23 to August 3.
“Top players and teams from across the world are selected for the Commonwealth Games where competition with each one will be tough,” Rameez told The Express Tribune hours before his departure from Islamabad Monday morning. “My eyes are on the gold medal in the singles competition to bring a title for the country and particularly for the province.” His idol is the Chinese Zhang Jike who is the reigning world and Olympics singles champion.
In addition to singles, Rameez will play double and mixed doubles along with team members Tabish Khursheed, Abeera Ali and Farwa Babar. Pakistan will compete in shooting, wrestling, weightlifting, swimming, boxing, table tennis, judo, lawn bowls, badminton and gymnastics.
Rameez is a two-time champion in the under-15 national championship, three-time runner-up in the under-18 slot, winner in the under-18 junior national championship and came third in the South Asian Games 2013 played in New Delhi.
Before his departure to the UK, Rameez had been training under Coach Salim Abbas and is confident enough to take on a player from any part of the world. It also helped that the Pakistan Sports Board arranged a special training camp over the last two months for those leaving for the UK.
Rameez has been playing since he was eight years old and he would compete against his two other brothers Muhammad Anis and Muhammad Raees. His uncle, national player Azhar Ahmad, pushed them to choose an indoor sport and trained Rameez over the years at his table tennis coaching academy in their hometown. And so while Rameez says he looks up to Zhang Jike, who is his favourite player, it was his uncle who inspired him.
Rameez’s brothers decided to leave the game after growing disenchanted with the attention and support it was given in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. The future did not seem bright. However, Rameez is committed to do whatever it takes and go wherever he needs to, to learn techniques and become a champion.
The game is his top priority and not his studies at the moment, Rameez admits. He has just completed his FA from Government Higher Secondary School, Barikot, and plans to enrol in a BA programme upon his return. Right now his entire focus is to make a name for table tennis in the country.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 22nd, 2014.