ISLAMABAD         -        Sprint queen Najma Parveen and promising athlete Mehboob Ali raised Pakistan’s flag high in the 13th South Asian Games 2019, currently underway in Kathmandu, Nepal, as both won gold medals in 400 meters hurdles on Friday.

Najma Parveen raised the national flag by clinching gold medal by clocking the distance in 1:73 seconds while Mehboob Ali won gold after clearing the distance in 50:71 seconds. The men’s team consisted of Muhammad Naeem, Muhammad Shahbaz, Samiullah and Uzair Rehman bagged bronze medal in 4x100m relay, Pakistani women team comprising Najma Parveen, Aneela Gulzar, Sahib-e-Isra and Esha Imran claimed bronze in 4x100mtr relay.

Pakistan shooting team comprising Kishmala, Anna Ibtisam and Mehwish won silver medal in team event of air pistol women 10m, Raja Hasnain and Atiq Choudhry won two bronze medals in badminton team and men’s doubles category, while national champion Rabia Ashiq was huge disappointment once again, when it comes to international stage, as she again failed to deliver. Pakistan has so far won 18 gold, 23 silver and 28 bronze medals and occupying fourth position on ladder board after India, Nepal and Bangladesh.

Talking to The Nation from Nepal, Najma said: “This gold medal belongs to AFP President Maj Gen (R) M Akram Sahi and his efforts, commitment, determination for athletics and athletes. He visited our camp and gave motivational lecture to us. He told us not to worry about lack of facilities, rather focus on giving out your best. His words worked well and I succeeded in winning gold for the country.

“The competition was very tough as not only Indians but local girls also had prepared well, but it was all due to the prayers of Pakistanis and my efforts, which helped me win gold medal. I want to represent the country once again in Tokyo Olympics 2020 and want to end up on podium,” she added.

Najma also urged the Pakistan Sports Board (PSB) high-ups to pay heed towards improving facilities and especially easy access to the gym. The camp of less than one week with very low standard meals were too less for the athletes to win gold medals, but even then against all the odds, we managed to win gold medals.

“I request IPC Minister Dr Fehmida Mirza to look into the sorry state-of-affairs of the PSB hostels. In the past, we had Director Hostels Malik Imtiaz Hussian, who was like a father for all of us and we used to be provided the best meal, milk and diet, but now the things are completely other way around. Non-professionals are spoiling all the good work done by the minister. I am sure she will seek explanation from the relevant persons and take them to task.

“I request her to issue directives to change the track at Jinnah Stadium, as it may inflict career-ending injury on athletes any moment. The track is torn into pieces and we can’t train on such rough tracks. Dr Mirza’s support can put new lease of life into athletics, as we are capable of winning medals at international level,” Najam concluded.

Sharing his views, golden boy Mehboob Ali said: “I attribute my medal to the armed forces of Pakistan, who had done so much to bring back peace to the country. Army always supports us and so as Gen Sahi, who always stands tall and delivers for athletes. He always takes good care of us and his presence is a source of huge motivation for all of us. I hope my gold medal will go a long way in opening the eyes of the PSB and its high-ups, who are playing with the futures of athletes, who never bother to ensure facilities are meant for athletes, not for commercial or private usage.

“I request Prime Minister Imran Khan and IPC Minister Dr Fehmida Mirza to enhance grant for the AFP so that Gen Sahi may carry on the good work and send us aboard for top level training, which can help us overcome minor flaws and improve our skills and techniques. It will surely help us win medals at even Olympics,” Mehboob concluded.