LAHORE: Needless reduction in the number of athletes in Pakistan’s contingent by Pakistan Sports Board (PSB) for the ongoing 13th South Asian Games in Nepal has affected Pakistan’s chances of winning more medals in the mega event.
In a press release, the Pakistan Olympic Association (POA) stated on Friday that while small countries like the host Nepal (596 athletes), Sri Lanka (564 athletes), Bangladesh (470 athletes) and India (487 athletes) are competing in the Games, Pakistan has fielded a small contingent of just 246 athletes which is only ahead of Maldives (216) and Bhutan (116).
A total of 1135 gold medals (324), silver medals (324), bronze (487) medals are at stake in all the 26 disciplines at the Games.
“The Athletes of Pakistan have done us proud so far. Not only have they been able to give a superb performance despite the circumstances and against all odds, they have also shown that they have the wherewithal and the potential to compete with the best. Had they been given a fair chance to realise their optimum potential, their performance would have been even better,” the POA press release said.
PSB reduced original figure of 400 to just 246
“Pakistan with 246 athletes were authorized by PSB to participate in 18 disciplines. The initial figure given to the PSB was for over 400 athletes. During the meeting of POA and the Federations with DG PSB on Oct 11, 2019, this figure was slashed by PSB and was reduced to 355 athletes.
“However, when this reduced figure of 355 was sent to PSB for final approval, another arbitrary cut was imposed and a further 109 were slashed from the contingent without consulting either the POA or the Federations. This cut was imposed without any logic or rationale, resulting in a total disruption of the working/calculation of the Federations for medal contentions, especially in the martial arts.
“This was done on Nov 10, 2019, just a few days before the the contingent’s departure for Nepal and the start of the Games. Similarly, an arbitrary cut was imposed also on officials resulting, in some cases, the axing of coaches. Only Maldives and Bhutan had athletes lesser in numbers than Pakistan,” the press release further states.
“The technical manual issued by the Organising Committee lays down the number of entries in a particular sport/discipline. For example in karate, the maximum numbers that could be entered was thirty three (33) athletes for individual and team events. Their entries were eventually reduced to 18.
“So right from the onset they were competing for just about fifty percent (50%) of the medals. And similarly for taekwondo and other martial arts events.
“From the above data it could be seen that other participating countries had worked out their medal targets and selected their numbers accordingly, whereas there was no rationale to the number of athletes approved as far as our contingent was concerned. To vie for a place on the medals table, a maximum number of medals have to be contested for, which would improve a country’s chances of getting on the podium.
“So right from the outset our contingent was at a disadvantage. There were hardly any preparation camps established for the mega event. Whatever few days that some were given the opportunity to train, no food or diet plan was followed. Later better sense prevailed.
“That the National Games were held when they were, proved to be the saving grace. It helped the athletes to at least prepare with the help of their departments/services/provinces. That the athletes have performed beyond expectation would be an understatement. They have done us proud and this aspect needs to be appreciated by all,” the press release concluded.