Hockey team rises to fourth but Pakistan return empty-handed again
Most emphatic of the early men's preliminary games was Pakistan's 8-1 drubbing of Great Britain. While the British could not match the stick-work and the fast breaks of the Pakistanis, it was the shots from penalty corners by Sohail Abbas that crushed them
By Gul Hameed Bhatti
From the first Olympic Games held in the new millennium, the first year of the 21st century, Pakistan's sports contingent returned home empty-handed yet again. The same fate had befallen them at Atlanta four years earlier. At Sydney 2000, their hockey team did better than the last time, but only slightly. It finished fourth which was an improvement, however, on the dismal sixth place it had attained at Atlanta. The memory of Pakistan's last Olympic Games medal, a bronze in the hockey event at Barcelona 1992, had already receded into the distant past.
No joy was experienced through the other playing members of the Pakistan entourage either. The two athletes, a male and a female, finished at the very end of the respective heats of their chosen events. All four boxers bowed out after making just one appearance each. The lone marksman and the solitary swimmer were mega disappointments. A three-member rowing team managed to qualify for an Olympiad for the first time. The results the trio attained were pathetic, to say the least.
The star of the Pakistan hockey team, three-time gold medallists at previous Olympics having managed to break the stranglehold of neighbouring India -- who claimed the Olympic Games hockey gold a record eight times from 1928 to 1980, was already on the wane. Since 1984 at Los Angeles, no more gold medals had come Pakistan's way. The last time they claimed a gold medal in any major international hockey was at Sydney in 1994 when they clinched the World Cup title under the irrepressible Shahbaz Ahmed.
The gold medals had dried up at the Champions Trophy event too, Pakistan's last top of the podium finishing also having come under Shahbaz, at Lahore in 1994. Until then, the national hockey team had picked up three gold -- including the first two in 1978 and 1980, four silver and three bronze medals. At the World Cup, Pakistan had won four gold medals in addition to two silver since 1971.
For the second time in 11 hockey competitions at the Asian Games -- in the first nine editions Pakistan had bagged as many as seven gold and two silver medals -- the nation's hockey squad was restricted to a bronze, at Bangkok in 1998. Four years earlier at Hiroshima, Pakistan had suffered the same fate.
Mansoor Ahmed, the goalkeeper, was Pakistan's hockey captain at Atlanta in 1996 when the team managed to attain only the sixth position at the Olympic Games. Mansoor was then appearing in his third consecutive Olympiad. In spite of the squad's poor show, he was retained as captain for the Champions Trophy event in Madras, India, later the same year where Pakistan picked up a silver medal.
After a sixth place finish at the next Champions Trophy event, at Adelaide in 1997, Mansoor's days as skipper came to an end. He was replaced by his Atlanta vice-captain, inside-right Tahir Zaman, under whom Pakistan could only end at the fifth spot in the 1998 World Cup staged in Utrecht. The captaincy immediately passed on to half-back Mohammad Usman.
At the inaugural hockey competition that was part of the 1998 Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur, under new captain Usman Pakistan failed to make the semifinals. In fact, the team finished a miserable eighth in the ranking. Usman, however, helped Pakistan win a silver medal at the Champions Trophy held in Lahore later the same year.
THE CAPTAINCY CHANGES HANDS AGAIN
Usman's head, however, was on the chopping block soon. The team's leadership changed hands and now it was Atif Bashir's turn to try out a new job. Atif, a medical doctor by profession, helped Pakistan win a bronze medal at the Bangkok Asian Games in 1998 and then there was a gold medal finish at the Sultan Azlan Shah Cup in Kuala Lumpur the following year.
Pakistan had won four silver medals and a bronze in the previous eight Azlan Shah competitions since the event's inaugural year in 1983. Now, in 1999, they earned their first gold medal. Under Atif Bashir the next assignment was a fiasco, as Pakistan finished sixth at the Champions Trophy in Brisbane in 1999.
The captaincy went back to Mohammad Usman. Later in the year 1999, he took the Pakistan team to the four-nation Rabobank Challenge tournament in Amstelveen and then another four-nation event in Wettingen. Under Usman, Pakistan won the silver medal at the Asia Cup in Kuala Lumpur, also in 1999.
Goalkeeper Ahmed Alam was the next person to don the captain's cap and immediately led the team to glory. Pakistan retained their Sultan Azlan Shah Cup title in the year 2000, which they had first claimed under Atif Bashir's leadership the previous year.
Ahmed Alam was then nominated captain of what the hockey management called 'a strong Pakistan hockey squad' for the Sydney Olympics. "We have a very balanced team and will do our best to bring the Olympic glory back to Pakistan," team manager Islahuddin Siddiqui said.
Pakistan's 17-member squad was reduced to 16 after a series of matches in Australia and New Zealand before the summer games in September of the year 2000.
"We have selected the best available squad after trials which were open and the team has been selected on merit," Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF) president Lt-General Abdul Aziz Khan told reporters.
Former captain Shahbaz Ahmed did not appear at the trials, ending speculation of a comeback. Pakistan had to qualify for the Olympics in Osaka, Japan, the previous March. The three-time Olympic champions lost their Asian Games title to India in 1998.
Pakistan were expected to pose a threat to European nations as they had a penalty corner expert in Sohail Abbas, who scored a record 62 goals in the year 1999.
Pakistan were placed in pool A of the Sydney Olympics along with defending champions the Netherlands, in addition to Germany, Canada, Malaysia and Great Britain.
Apart from Ahmed Alam, the Pakistan team included Kamran Ashraf, his deputy who had also played at Atlanta. Others making their second appearance each were Shafqat Malik and Mohammad Sarwar.
The skipper was playing in his first Olympiad. The others were goalkeeper Mohammad Qasim, Ali Raza, Tariq Imran, Sohail Abbas, the brothers Irfan Yousuf and Imran Yousuf, Waseem Ahmed, Mohammad Nadeem ND, Atif Bashir, Sameer Hussain, Kashif Jawwad and Mohammad Anis.
Nadeem ND was excluded from the Atlanta 1996 squad at the last moment following the return of Shahbaz Ahmed. Mohammad Saqlain was dropped from the Sydney-bound team on charges of indiscipline as he was in 2004 too when the outfit was leaving for the Athens Olympiad. Saqlain is, however, in the team for the Beijing Olympics this year!
The team manager-coach at Sydney was Islahuddin Siddiqui, one of Pakistan's most successful hockey captains. He had performed the manager's role at Seoul 1988 and Barcelona 1992 also, apart from having played at the Olympic Games in Munich 1972 and Montreal 1976, as vice-captain to Abdul Rasheed Junior in the latter event.
Iftikhar Syed accompanied the team as associate coach. He too had appeared in two Olympiads -- in 1972 and 1976.
THE NETHERLANDS RETAIN
The Netherlands beat Great Britain 4-2 in the first men's game of the tournament. The fortunes of sport are such that Calum Giles's penalty shot for Great Britain in this game could have changed the course of the competition had he not flicked it straight to the goalie. But no one was to realise it at the time.
The Australian men's team beat newcomers Poland 4-0; however, most emphatic of the early men's preliminary games was Pakistan's 8-1 drubbing of Great Britain. While the British could not match the stick-work and the fast breaks of the Pakistanis, it was the shots from penalty corners by Sohail Abbas that crushed them.
There were exuberant scenes featuring the many Pakistani supporters in the crowd. Many members of Sydney's multicultural communities turned out to support teams from their countries of origin.
Hockey minnows Canada nearly pulled off a major upset, being up 1-0 against Germany with ten minutes to go. They eventually lost 2-1 but goalkeeper Mike Mahood received many plaudits for his sensational display. In another match Malaysia's men valiantly held the eventual winners, the Netherlands, 0-0. The Netherlands had an apparently fair goal disallowed in the second half. Their official protest was later dismissed.
Poland had a sensational win on the fourth day of play, beating European giant Spain 4-1, with a team that was sourced virtually from a single club. This result, coming after Poland's loss to Australia two days before, was outstanding. Spain let in three goals in a 13-minute period, which cruelled their chance to progress. Spain later lost 5-1 to Argentina.
The Australian team's least impressive performance in the preliminaries was the 2ñ2 draw against Spain. In the first half the Kookaburras took the ball into the circle 24 times for just one shot on goal. Despite this poor conversion rate the Kookaburras looked clearly sharper and more creative, particularly in the second half.
Other draws in the round included a remarkable 5-5 result between Poland and Argentina and a 1-1 tie for Germany and Pakistan.
After 11 days of competition in the men's preliminary games the rankings were finally decided. Pakistan headed pool A, after they had a convincing and, as it turned out for the Dutch, fortuitous win over the Netherlands 2-0. It seemed the Dutch practised brinkmanship throughout the tournament before retaining the Olympic championship.
After losing to Pakistan in their final pool A match they walked off the field believing they had missed the semifinals. Two hours later they had a most unlikely reprieve when Great Britain beat Germany 2-1, tipping the Germans out of the semifinals and ushering back the Dutch on goal differences. Pool B saw Australia clear on top, after defeating Korea 2-1. Korea placed second and also entered the semifinals.
Day 13 proved decidedly unlucky for two of the four men's semifinalists. The match between Australia and the Netherlands was a classic in which both teams' defences were magnificent in a fluctuating, epic battle. A penalty shoot-out determined the winner when both teams remained goalless after 70 minutes of regulation play and 15 minutes of extra time.
The Netherlands edged out Australia 5-4 when Dutch goalkeeper Ronald Jansen saved Brent Livermore's penalty stroke. The Australians were devastated and Livermore fell to his knees in disappointment.
Asian hockey powers Pakistan and Korea duelled in a tight affair in the other semifinal. The Koreans sped off the goal line and shut down Pakistan's scoring machine, Sohail Abbas. Korea scored the only goal in the 57th minute when Song Seung-Tae flicked in after a penalty corner, thereby booking his team a place in the gold medal match.
The men's final appeared to be a one-horse race, with little chance given the Koreans. Yet the final hockey match of the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games was a worthy contest for the gold. A hat-trick of goals from Dutch captain Stephan Veen and his winning penalty in the shoot-out was the best way for the veteran to retire.
But the courageous Koreans fought back to nearly deny Veen his romantic exit. Down 3-1 with four minutes to go, they used their speedy forwards to make fast breaks and scored a brace of goals. The goals by their captain, Kang Keon-Wook, and Kim Kyung-Seok were fantastic conversions of penalty corners.
Two desperate periods of extra time led to the final shoot-out, where the Dutch triumphed, holding their nerve with all five of their penalty converters scoring. Australia won the bronze medal match 6ñ3 against Pakistan. Sohail took his goals tally to eight, second only to Argentina's Jorge Lombi who netted as many as 13.
Hockey aficionados agreed after the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games that the guard had not changed. The Australian Hockeyroos had remained favourites to retain their women's Olympic gold medal in spite of the fact that they had failed to make the final at the Champions Trophy earlier in the year. It was the first time in eight years that the Australian team had not made the final of a major tournament. The shock loss perhaps sharpened their Olympic resolve.
The Netherlands were expected to retain their men's champions' mantle, in spite of the retirements from their Atlanta gold winning team and their defeat at the European Nations Cup. With their gold medals both teams joined hockey's exclusive 'consecutive gold' club, the first to do so since the legendary Indian run of six gold medals ended at Melbourne in 1956.
SHAZIA HIDAYAT BRAVES ON BUT FINISHES LAST
As in Atlanta four years earlier, where athlete Shabana Akhtar had become the first Pakistani female ever to feature in an Olympiad, it was Shazia Hidayat's turn at Sydney. Having won a wild card entry, like the male athlete Maqsood Ahmed, skeet shooter Khurram Inam and swimmer Kamal Salman Masud, the Chichawatni-born Shazia, then 24 years old, was a champion middle and long distance runner at home but was surely out of her depth at the international level.
She finished 14th out of the same number of participants in the 1500 metres race in a first round heat, with a poor time of 5:07.17 minutes. The gold medal winner, Algeria's Nouria Merah-Benida, later covered the distance in a mere 4:05.10 minutes.
Maqsood Ahmed, who had created a Pakistan record while winning the gold medal at the 1999 South Asian Federation (SAF) Games in Kathmandu with a brisk time of 21.15 seconds, managed to do so at Sydney only in 21.70 seconds and finish last in his heat.
Boxer Usmanullah Khan, who was featuring in his second Olympics after 1996, went down in the first round. So did his other colleagues, including the highly-rated Syed Asghar Ali who had actually got a bye in his first match. The rowing trio performed poorly, not being able to finish anywhere.
Shooter Khurram Inam ended halfway down the roster in the skeet event. Kamal Salman Masud, who had got his second wild card selection, fared even worse than he had at Atlanta 1996. His timing for the 100 metres butterfly was 1:00.60 minutes -- four years earlier he had done so in 58.59 seconds -- and he ended seventh out of seven swimmers.
Gold medal winner in the event at Sydney was Sweden's Lars Frolander, who swam the distance in a mere 52.00 seconds.
SYDNEY GAMES THE LARGEST YET
The Sydney 2000 Games in Australia were the largest yet, with 10,651 athletes competing in 300 events. Despite their size, they were well organised, renewing faith in the Olympic Movement.
Birgit Fischer earned two gold medals in Kayak to become the first woman in any sport to win medals 20 years apart. Judoka Ryoko Tamura lost in the final in both Barcelona and Atlanta, but came back to win the gold medal in Sydney. Steven Redgrave became the first rower to win gold medals at five consecutive Olympics.
The US softball team won in stirring fashion, losing three games in a row and then coming back to defeat each of the teams they had lost to. Participation amounted to 199 NOCs (nations) and four individual athletes (IOA) with 10,651 athletes (4,069 women, 6,582 men) and there were 300 events in 28 sports.
The 2000 Summer Olympics or the Millennium Games/Games of the New Millennium, were officially known as the Games of the XXVII Olympiad.
Sydney won the right to host the Games on September 23, 1993, after being selected over Beijing, Berlin, Istanbul and Manchester in four rounds of voting, at the 101st IOC Session in Monte Carlo, Monaco.
A record 199 nations entered the stadium at the opening ceremony, the only missing IOC member being Afghanistan (suspended due to the Taliban regime's prohibition against practicing any kind of sports). Most remarkable was the entering of North and South Korea as one team, using a specially designed unification flag: a white background flag with a blue map of the Korea peninsula; the two teams would compete separately, however. Four athletes from East Timor also marched in the parade of nations.
Although the country-to-be had no national olympic committee then, they were allowed to compete under the Olympic flag. The Governor-General, Sir William Deane, opened the games.
The Olympic flag was carried around the arena by eight former Australian Olympic champions Bill Roycroft, Murray Rose, Liane Tooth, Gillian Rolton, Marjorie Jackson, Lorraine Crapp, Michael Wenden and Nick Green.
The opening ceremony concluded with the lighting of the Olympic flame. Former Australian Olympic champion Herb Elliott brought the Olympic flame into the stadium. Then, celebrating 100 years of women's participation in the Olympic Games, former Australian women Olympic champions Betty Cuthbert and Raelene Boyle, Dawn Fraser, Shirley Strickland (later Shirley Strickland de la Hunty), Shane Gould and Debbie Flintoff-King brought the torch through the stadium, handing it over to Cathy Freeman, who lit the flame in the cauldron within a circle of fire.
The triathlon made its Olympic debut with the women's race. Set in the surroundings of the iconic Sydney Opera House, Brigitte McMahon representing Switzerland swam, cycled and ran to the first gold medal in the sport, beating the favoured home athletes.
The first star of the Games was Ian Thorpe. The 17-year-old Australian first set a new world record in the 400m freestyle final before competing in an exciting 4x100m freestyle final. Swimming the last leg, Thorpe passed the leading Americans and arrived in a new world record time, two tenths of a second ahead of the Americans.
In the same event for women, the Americans also broke the world record, finishing ahead of the Netherlands and Sweden.
China won the gold medal in the men's team all-around gymnastics competition, after being the runner-up in the previous two Olympics. The other medals were taken by Ukraine and Russia, respectively.
By rowing in the winning coxless four, Steve Redgrave of Great Britain became a member of a select group who had won gold medals at five consecutive Olympics.
Australian Cathy Freeman won the 400 metre final in front of a jubilant Sydney crowd at the Olympic Stadium, ahead of Lorraine Graham of Jamaica and Katharine Merry of Great Britain. Freeman's win made her the first competitor in Olympic Games history to light the Olympic flame and then go on to win a gold medal.
Cameroon won a historic gold medal over Spain in the men's Olympic football final at the Olympic Stadium. The game went to a penalty shootout.
Marion Jones, winner of three golds and two bronzes for the United States, relinquished her medals in October 2007 after confessing that she had taken tetrahydrogestrinone (THG) from September 2000 through July 2001. The IOC has formally stripped Jones of her five medals. She has also been banned from competing for two years by the IAAF.
United States headed the medals table with a tally of 92, with 37 gold, 24 silver and 31 bronze. Russia were second with a total of 88 that comprised 32 gold, 28 silver and 28 bronze. China took 28 gold, 16 silver and 15 bronze for 59 medals overall.
The other nations among the top ten were Australia 58 (16-25-17), Germany 56 (13-17-26), France 38 (13-14-11), Italy 34 (13-8-13), Netherlands 25 (12-9-4), Cuba 29 (11-11-7) and Great Britain 28 (11-10-7).
NEXT WEEK: Pakistan at 2004 Olympic Games in Athens
The writer is Group Editor Sports of 'The News'
PAKISTAN AT 2000 OLYMPIC GAMES: ALL RESULTS
200 metres: Round 1 heat 6 Maqsood Ahmed 21.70sec 8th out of 8
1500 metres (women): Round 1 heat 1 Shazia Hidayat 5:07.17min 14th out of 14
Welterweight (67kg): 1st round Usmanullah Khan lost to Yovanny Lorenzo (Dominican Republic) on points 5:4
Featherweight (57kg): 1st round Haider Ali lost to Ramazan Palyani (Turkey) on points 5:4
Light Welterweight (63.5kg): 1st round Ghulam Shabbir lost to Kelson Carlos Santos (Brazil) RSC outclassed in fourth round
Lightweight (60kg): 1st round bye. 2nd round Asghar Ali Shah lost to Tigkran Ouzlian (Greece) on points 17:15
Preliminaries Group A: Pakistan drew with Canada 2-2 (half-time 2-2), beat Great Britain 8-1 (h-t 4-1), drew with Germany 1-1 (h-t 1-1), drew with Malaysia 2-2 (h-t 1-1), beat Netherlands 2-0 (h-t 1-0). Pakistan topped Group A 5 played, 2 won, 3 drawn, GF 15, GA 6, points 9. Semifinals Pakistan lost to Korea 1-0
(h-t 0-0). Bronze medal match Pakistan lost to Australia 6-3 (h-t Australia 3-1). Pakistan finished 4th
Single sculls: Preliminary round heat 3 Mohammad Akram 7:54.71min 6th out of 6, repechage 3 7:51.40min 5th out of 5, semifinals C/D race 2 7:45.12 5th out of 6, race D for last five positions Mohammad Akram did not start
Lightweight double sculls: Preliminary round heat 2 Pakistan (Zahid Ali Pirzada/Hazrat Islam) 7:13.62min 5th out of 5, repechage 4 7:13.98min 4th out 4, classification races race cancelled, finals race C 6:52.12min 5th out of 5
Skeet: Qualification series 1 Khurram Inam score 72 joint 15th out of 49, final score 119 joint 23rd out of 49
100 metres butterfly: Heat 1 Kamal Salman Masud 1:00.60min 7th out of 7
PAKISTAN DID NOT WIN A MEDAL
Rasheed, Sadaf hoping not to finish among the 'also rans' at Beijing
Sadaf, who turns 23 on the 27th later this month, ran the 100 metres in 11.81 seconds and the 200 metres in 24.36 seconds. Shabana Akhtar's previous national records had stood for as many as seventeen years
By Gul Hameed Bhatti
A Pakistan contingent comprising 21 players -- 16 of them are included in the hockey team alone -- and just over a dozen officials has left to feature at the 29th Olympic Games that start in the Peoples Republic of China capital of Beijing officially from August 8. Apart from the hockey players, two athletes, two swimmers and one rifle shooter, all having gained entry through the wild card system, will be seen in Pakistan's national colours at what is considered the world's biggest and greatest sporting event.
The two athletes are the 110 metres hurdler Abdul Rasheed and Sadaf Siddiqui, a female who excels in the 100 and 200 metres sprints. Another girl Kiran Khan, in addition to a male colleague Adil Baig, will appear in the swimming events and Siddiq Umar, a marksman, is Pakistan's entry in the shooting event.
In the 14 editions of the Olympic Games that Pakistan have taken part in -- starting from London 1948 -- among the many teams and individual athletes they have sent to various parts of the globe to represent the country, as many as sixty-three (63) of them were entered in the track and field events. Not one of them -- not even the very best among them -- brought home any medals though. That's nothing to be surprised about.
The reasons are many, some beyond the control of Pakistan's sports managing authorities. In recent years, a lack of adequate international exposure, the failure to hold athletics meets at home including players from abroad touching the highest standards in their art and almost negligible participation of the country's best athletes in competitions abroad have hurt Pakistan sport, but the biggest reason for the continuing decline in Pakistan's overall sports standards could even be the general apathetic attitude of the various boards and organisations that are supposed to run affairs in these spheres.
In the early days after Independence, Pakistan sports thrived solely because of the great interest shown by the nation's armed forces, who had a natural infrastructure at their disposal to serve the cause of physical activity. Although Pakistan's athletes failed to win any medals at the Olympic Games even at that time, they were quite a force to reckon with at the Commonwealth Games level and in the regional Asian Games. Unfortunately, with the advent of the 1965 war between Pakistan and India, sportsmen employed with the Pakistan Army, Navy and the Air Force had to report for national duty, to attend to more pressing matters and within a few years' time the forces were not able to give the kind of time to sports that they continuously required.
Before the wild card entry system was introduced at the Olympic Games, where sports persons were allowed to participate in the mega event in disciplines that they wouldn't otherwise qualify for only through invitation, Pakistan were able to send quite a big bunch of athletes to the various Olympiads. Seventeen men represented Pakistan at the Melbourne Olympic Games in 1956 after 16 had featured at the 1952 Games in Helsinki. Twelve athletes got to take part at the 1960 Olympics in Rome.
Since Atlanta 1996, when the wild card system was introduced, the first Pakistan female athlete gained entry into the Olympic Games fraternity. The quite versatile Shabana Akhtar, who held Pakistan's 100 and 200 metres sprint records for almost two decades, took part in the long jump event in Atlanta. Her national long jump record of 6.31 metres stands unchallenged since 1995. In her only Olympic Games appearance, Shabana made a leap of just 5.80 metres and finished a poor 16th out of 17 jumpers in her qualifying round heat.
Middle distance runners Shazia Hidayat, at Sydney 2000, and Sumaira Zahoor at Athens 2004 have followed Shabana as Pakistan's other female representatives at the Olympic Games. Four years ago, the then 13 years old Rubab Raza made history by becoming the first Pakistani swimmer to attend an Olympiad, even though it was through a wild card and produced disastrous results, as anticipated.
Since Atlanta 1996, with the wild card system put into operation, Pakistan's representation in events such as athletics has been restricted to just two sports people and one of them has to be a female. But, even in 2008, perhaps apart from the hockey team no individual is expected to be in the run for the medals. Even hockey, with eight medals including three gold in the Olympic Games, hasn't earned any more victory stand finishes since the Barcelona Olympiad back in 1992.
ABDUL KHALIQ MAKES PAKISTAN PROUD AT MELBOURNE
Although he eventually failed to win a medal, it was the 23-year-old Pakistan Army sprinter Abdul Khaliq who really stood out for Pakistan at the 1956 Melbourne Olympic Games. Unlike the 1952 Olympiad, where the Pakistani sportsmen still hadn't had much top-level international exposure, the 1956 team had been to several competitions in many parts of the world in the previous four years.
At the 1954 Asian Games in Manila, Philippines -- Pakistan's first -- the country's athletes won four gold and four silver medals. Abdul Khaliq was dubbed the 'fastest man in Asia' when he ran the 100 metres race in a new Asian record of 10.6 seconds. Mohammad Sharif Butt (21.9sec in 200 metres), Mirza Khan (54.1sec in 400 metres hurdles) and Mohammad Nawaz (210ft 10-1/8in in javelin throw) also won gold medals and created new Asian records. Mohammad Aslam (200 metres), Jalal Khan (javelin throw), Pakistan's 4x100 metres relay team and hammer thrower Mohammad Iqbal all won silver medals.
At the 1954 Commonwealth Games in Vancouver, Canada, Iqbal won gold in the hammer throw event while Nawaz and Jalal took silver and bronze, respectively, in the javelin throw. Sharif Butt lost in both his 100 yards dash and 220 yards dash semifinals while Khaliq too reached the 100 yards dash semifinals before bowing out.
But the athletes had worked very hard in different parts of the world since 1952. Most of them were militarymen, so they got to participate in the International Military Athletics Meet in Athens, Greece, in 1955. The first Indo-Pakistan Athletics Meet was held in New Delhi in March 1956, where the highlight was Khaliq's sprint double. He created new Asian records in both the 100 and 200 metres events.
Pakistan athletes then went to Berlin for the Military Championship in 1956 and later took part in several meets in England during the same year. Later, before going to the Olympiad, they also featured in an athletics meet in Teheran on the occasion of the Birthday Celebrations of the Shah of Iran.
Most Pakistan athletes disappointed in Melbourne, including the sprinter Mohammad Sharif Butt, who was featuring in his third consecutive Olympiad. It was first-timer Abdul Khaliq who stole the show, however.
In the 100 metres event, Khaliq was second out of five runners in his first round heat with a time of 10.8 seconds. In the second round heat, he ran in his best time of 10.5 seconds and was again second. In the semifinals, he was pushed to fourth place among six participants and lost the chance for a medal.
Sixty-eight competitors in the 200 metres were divided into twelve heats, one heat being a walkover. Khaliq produced the best first round time of 21.1 seconds. He again ran in the same time in the second round, breasting the tape ahead of the others, and with Michael Agostini (Trinidad) and Andy Stanfield (USA) all with a similar time headed the second round.
Khaliq, however, could not produce the same form in the first semifinal and was eliminated.
The strength of the USA trio was shown in the semifinals, and in the final all ran inside 21 seconds. Bobby Morrow, in clocking 20.6 second, broke Jesse Owens's (1936) and Stanfield's (1952) joint record of 20.7 seconds.
Owens was watching from the Press Stand and Stanfield equalled his record in running second. USA with the first three placings, repeated their Helsinki success and Morrow was the first American since Owens to win both the 100 and 200 metres.
Then, there was ace hurdler Ghulam Raziq. At both the Melbourne Games of 1956 and at Rome 1960, he reached the semifinals of the 110 metres hurdles. He too failed to pick up any medals, but at least continued to run every race with an improved personal timing. Also at Rome, Mohammad Iqbal made the final of the hammer throw event, but in the end finished only 12th out of 15.
Some of the country's biggest track and field stars proved to be extreme disappointments. One of them was javelin thrower Mohammad Nawaz, another was the long distance runner Mubarak Shah. At both Munich 1972 and Montreal 1976, the quite magnificent Mohammad Younus cut a sorry figure, although in 1976 he was mistakenly entered in the wrong event!
SADAF SIDDIQUI HOLDS TWO NATIONAL RECORDS
Pakistan Steel's Sadaf Siddiqui now holds Pakistan records in the 100 and 200 metres sprints. This she achieved only as recently as April this year, when she won gold medals in both events at the 40th National Athletics Championships staged in Lahore. Her performance there must surely have helped in her gaining a wild card for the Beijing Olympic Games.
Sadaf, who turns 23 on the 27th later this month, ran the 100 metres in 11.81 seconds and the 200 metres in 24.36 seconds. Shabana Akhtar's previous national records had stood for as many as seventeen years. Shabana's 100 metres mark was 11.95 seconds and her timing in 200 metres was 24.53 seconds. Both achievements were made at the South Asian Federation (SAF) Games in Colombo back in 1991.
Abdul Rasheed, the 29-year-old Khanewal-born who represents the Water and Power Development Authority (WAPDA) sports squad, is the male athlete going to Beijing. At the National Athletics Championship in Lahore four months ago, he won the 110 metres hurdles with a time of 14.24 seconds.
He has, however, done better having run his event in 14.18 seconds in the 1st Islamic Solidarity Games in Makkah 2005, without winning a medal. He had picked up a gold medal though, at the SAF Games in Islamabad in 2004 with a time of 14.33 seconds.
At the South Asian Games in Colombo in 2006, Rasheed was restricted to a bronze medal, finishing the 110 metres hurdles race in 14.62 seconds. In the same event, Sadaf Siddiqui had won two bronze medals, in the 100 metres sprint and with the Pakistan team in the 4x100 metres relay.
Should Rasheed and Sadaf be hoping to gain any medals at the Olympic Games in Beijing? That's bsolutely impossible. The world record in the men's 110 metres hurdles is a very fast 12.87 seconds attained by Cuba's Dayron Robles this very year. Robles is tipped to clinch the gold medal at Beijing 2008.
Even the Olympic Games record in this event is 12.91 seconds, established by China's Liu Xiang at the Athens Olympiad in 2004.
Pakistan's best in the 110 metres hurdles was achieved by Ghulam Abbas with a time of 14.11 seconds at Islamabad in 1989. Ghulam Abbas had a barren run at the Barcelona Olympics in 1992 after having won a gold medal at the Asian Games held in Beijing in 1990.
Sadaf Siddiqui finds herself in exalted company. The world and Olympic records set by the now deceased Florence Griffith-Joyner twenty years ago still stand. The colourful United States athlete holds the world 100 metres record with a time of 10.49 seconds that she gained at Indianapolis in the USA in July 1988.
Only two months later at Seoul 1988, she established new records at the Olympic Games. She ran the 100 metres in 10.62 seconds and the 200 metres in 21.34 seconds. The latter mark stands as the world record also.
PAKISTAN ATHLETICS HIT BY DOPING SCANDALS
Unfortunately, Pakistan athletics has been hit by at least three doping scandals lately. Although Rasheed and Sadaf had already been handed wild card entries for Beijing 2008, it was announced in mid-July that Noshee Parveen and Mohammad Shah had tested positive in mandatory dope tests and the enquiry commission of the Athletics Federation of Pakistan (AFP) had recommended a two-year ban on either sports person.
Noshee admitted that she had failed the dope test but stressed that she had merely used pain killers and anti allergy drugs.
She is said to have breached the IAAF rule 32.2 (a) after she tested positive for nandrolone (19-norandrosterone). Shah, a 110 metres hurdler, was also found positive for performance enhancing drug stanozolol (hydroxystanozolol).
"Both Shah and Noshee have tested positive for doping and the federation has formed an inquiry committee to decide on their future," AFP secretary Khalid Mahmood said. "We have also decided that all the top athletes will undergo a dope test before participating in any international event from now on."
This was the second time when a Pakistani athlete has been found positive in a doping case this year. In April, Mohammad Sajjad, also a 110 metres hurdler, was suspended for two years for using performance enhancing drugs.
The 26-year-old Noshee Parveen, who is employed with Pakistan Steel as is Sadaf, holds two Pakistan national women's athletics records. She ran the 100 metres hurdles in 14.7 seconds in Islamabad in 2003 to establish one. At Quetta in 2004, she made a triple jump leap of 11.39 metres to create the other record.
Mohammad Shah won the silver medal in 110 metres hurdles at the SAF Games in Islamabad in 2004. He had picked up a bronze with a time of 14.33 seconds at Kathmandu 1999.
At the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne 2006, Shah had run the 110 metres hurdles race in 14.64 seconds and Mohammad Sajjad had done so in 14.36 seconds in his heat in the same event. Sajjad took a silver medal at the South Asian Games in Colombo 2006, with a time of 14.26 seconds.
NEVER BEEN TO THE
Several Pakistan athletics record holders have never represented the country at the Olympic Games level. One such person is Pakistan Army's Gujranwala-born 24-year-old Afzal Baig. Afzal's stock has gone down a little lately, this being one of the reasons why he wasn't considered for a spot in the Beijing Olympiad-bound squad, but he is the proud owner of Pakistan's all time record in the 100 metres sprint.
At the 1st Islamic Solidarity Games held in Makkah, Saudi Arabia, in 2005, Afzal ran the 100 metres in 10.42 seconds and although he created the new Pakistan record he failed to win any medals. The country's previous record in this event had stood without being bettered for almost half a century!
At the first Indo-Pakistan Athletics Meet in New Delhi back in March 1956, Pakistan's outstanding Abdul Khaliq won the 100 metres gold with a time of 10.4 seconds, then also an Asian record. However, the time recorded was just 10.4 seconds and nothing further. Afzal Baig is said to have bettered Khaliq's mark which was only fractionally slower.
Quite a few other Pakistan athletics record holders too have failed to get a ticket to the Olympic Games. Mohammad Amin, who ran the 400 metres hurdles at the Asian Games in Hiroshima in 1994 in 49.90 seconds without getting any medal, never did. High jumper Ahmed Bilal was another. Ghufran Hussain, an above average shot putter, also never attended an Olympic Games.
Similarly, triple jumper Zafar Iqbal who last year established the Pakistan record with a leap of 16.45 metres, has missed the bus for Beijing. In March 2008, he created a new meet record of 16.42 metres at the South Asian Athletics Championships in Kochi, India.
The reason for Pakistani athletes not having been taken seriously enough is a fact that should be obvious from the comparative table accompanying this article. The difference in our national sports standards and those of the rest of the world are self-explanatory. Just look at the corresponding records in javelin throw: Zahid Ali Mahmood's best effort of 78.25 metres (or 256 ft 8-7/10in) falls more than 20 metres short of the world record attained by the Czech Republic's Jan Zelezny with a throw of 98.48 metres -- 323 feet 1-1/10 inches.
There's a huge difference of level in all other track and field events. However, Shazia Hidayat and Sumaira Zahoor were under no illusions when they participated in their respective Olympic Games.
'INVESTING IN WOMEN IS
A WASTE OF TIME'
Shazia Hidayat was not expected even to come close to setting any records or winning any medals when she competed at the Olympics Games at Sydney in 2000. But the 1500-metre runner was still a rarity because she was representing Pakistan, who infrequently send women to international sports events.
And the problems Hidayat faced, coming from a country where attention to women's sports is minimal, mirror the difficulties confronted by women athletes in many Asian countries.
"The basic problem we face is lack of facilities and lack of training," she said during a break at a track near the capital Islamabad.
The (then) 24-year-old student from Chichawatni, a small town in central Punjab province, has been a champion in Pakistan, but said the lack of training and proper coaching have made it difficult to compete outside the country.
"Now we are preparing for the Olympics but the training camp is just for two months in Islamabad. How can we fulfill our fitness requirements?" said Shazia, whose best time in the 1500 metres of four minutes 48.79 seconds was then far outside the winning time of 4:00.83 in Atlanta 1996.
Farrukh Naz, who was in charge of Shazia's training camp, said that in addition to a lack of resources and training facilities, there was a general apathy towards sports among women in countries like Pakistan. "The first preference is always towards the men's teams. They think investing in women is a waste of time and waste of funds," she said.
In Sydney, Shazia ran in an extremely poor time of 5:07.17 minutes and finished 14th and last in her heat. The surprise winner of the gold medal, Algeria's Nouria Merah-Benida won the event in a mere 4:05.10 minutes!
The only woman in Pakistan's Olympic track and field team for Athens 2004 ruled out targeting a medal and instead set herself the humble ambition of not finishing last.
"I know the star-studded line-up in the 1500 meters leaves me nowhere in the medal race but for me the main thing is that I don't come last," Sumaira Zahoor told a news agency.
"Shabana (Akhtar) and Shazia (Hidayat) were established athletes and I am just four years into athletics but I would try to do my best and gain experience which would help me in the 2006 Asian Games in Qatar," Sumaira said. "It's an honour to represent your country in the Olympics but I want this honour with grace so that I am not ashamed of myself," said the then 24-year-old. "Since our standard is far behind other countries, we can't qualify for the Olympics, so I am going there on invitation and would like to improve my personal record," said Sumaira.
Her first participation at the international level was at the 2002 Asian Games in Busan, where she finished the 1500 metres race with five runners behind her. Sumaira won a silver medal in the SAF Games in Islamabad in March earlier in 2004. Her timing of 4:31.41 minutes in the 1500 metres still stands as a national record.
At the Athens Olympiad, Sumaira finished 15th and last in her event. Her time recorded was 4:49.33 minutes. Great Britain's outstanding runner Kelly Holmes, who won the gold medal, covered the distance in just 3:57.90 minutes.
Pakistan's two athletes at Beijing 2008 would thus be hoping against hope not to finish just among the also rans. Things really haven't changed for our nation in the last sixty years since its first participation at the Olympic Games.
PAKISTAN ATHLETES AGAINST THE WORLD'S BEST IN THE MAIN TRACK & FIELD EVENTS
PAKISTAN'S BEST WORLD RECORDS
100m Afzal Baig 10.42s Makkah 2005 Usain Bolt JAM 9.72s 2008
200m Maqsood Ahmed 21.15s Kathmandu 1999 Michael Johnson USA 19.32s 1996
400m Sagheer Ahmed 46.75s Islamabad 2004 Michael Johnson USA 43.18s 1999
800m Mohammad Siddiq 1:48.10m Hanover 1974 Wilson Kipketer DEN 1:14.11m 1977
1500m Mohammad Younus 3:41.4m Koln 1970 Hicham El Guerrouj MOR 3:26.0m 1999
5000m Mohammad Younus 14:08.4m Troisdorf 1977 Kenenisa Bekele ETH 2:37.35m 2004
10000m Mazhar Hussain 30.27.2m Troisdorf 1977 Kenenisa Bekele ETH 26:17.53m 2005
110m hur Ghulam Abbas 14.11s Islamabad 1989 Dayron Robles CUB 12.87s 2008
400m hur Mohammad Amin 49.90s Hiroshima 1994 Kevin Young USA 46.78s 1992
Marathon Naseer Ahmed 2:14.11h Rawalpindi 2003 Haile Gebrselassie ETH 2:04.26h 2007
High jump Ahmed Bilal 2.06m Islamabad 2001 Javier Sotomayor CUB 2.45m 1993
Pole vault Mohammad Ayub 4.90m Islamabad 2005 Sergei Bubka UKR 6.14m 1994
Long jump Mohammad Urfaq 7.79m Islamabad 1989 Mike Powell USA 8.95m 1991
Triple jump Zafar Iqbal 16.45m Karachi 2007 Jonathan Edwards UK 18.29m 1995
Shot put Ghufran Hussain 18.25m Karachi 2000 Randy Barnes USA 23.12m 1990
Discus throw Basharat Ali 55.10m Colombo 2006 Jurgen Schult GDR 74.08m 1986
Hammer throw Aqarab Abbas 68.20m Islamabad 1995 Yuriy Sedykh USSR 86.74m 1986
Javelin throw Zahid Ali Mahmood 78.25m Lahore 2001 Jan Zelezny CZE 98.48m 1996
4x100m relay National team 40.36s Islamabad 2004 USA team 37.40s 1993
4x400m relay National team 3:07.03m Islamabad 2004 USA team 2:54.20m 1998
Women's records: As Pakistan's female wild card entry at the Beijing Olympics 2008, Sadaf Siddiqui, is expected to run in one of the 100 or 200 metres sprints, here are the corresponding records for these two events:
100m Sadaf Siddiqui 11.81s Lahore 2008 Florence Griffith-Joyner USA 10.49s 1988
200m Sadaf Siddiqui 24.36s Lahore 2008 Florence Griffith-Joyner USA 21.34s 1988