Pakistan at the Special Olympics
The 82 member Pakistani contingent that took part in the Special Olympics World Games in Athens returned home last week with a staggering tally of 56 medals.
The contingent built on the performance of previous Pakistani teams that have always given a good performance in the Games; four years ago Pakistani athletes won 43 medals in Shanghai.
As always the contingent comprised of mentally handicapped athletes who showcased their talents by competing shoulder to shoulder with 180 countries and 7500 other athletes who had turned up for the event in Athens.
Despite paucity of resources, social taboos and lack of facilities, these competitors showed the world that they were ready to face-up to the challenges thrown at them.
An NGO, Special Olympics Pakistan, is responsible for nurturing the talents of these kids and honing their skills for international competitions.
The organization provides year-round sports training and athletic competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports for children and adults with mental disability.
This time around the Pakistani delegation took part in eight disciplines including Athletics, Aquatics, Badminton, Basketball, Bocce (a ball game for low ability athletes), Cycling, Football and Table Tennis.
In Athletics, Adeel Aamir, Bakhtawar Gul, Nosheen Bano and Rahimullah Baig gave a sterling performance.
Adeel was easily the best athlete on display in the Games. He won gold in 100 meters, High-Jump and 4×100 meters. Bakhtawar Gul, an 18 year old, grabbed two gold medals in 100 meters race and long jump events. She also bagged a silver medal.
Rahimullah Baig won silver in 1500 meters, besides he teaming up to grab the gold medal in 400 meters relay race with Adeel, Tahir Siddiqui and Sakhawat Ali.
In the Aquatics arena, Hussain Abbas and Ahsan Ali impressed all with their skills. The duo won a silver and bronze respectively.
Pakistan’s Basketball and Badminton teams also performed brilliantly, they made it to the finals of their events.
Pakistan narrowly lost to India in the Basketball final while in the Badminton event Rabia Saeed and Suhail Khan won individual titles.
In Bocce, Shumaila Rubab won the gold. She displayed great skill and concentration to outwit her competitors.
Pakistan had a great return of medals in cycling also. Bilawal Aslam won a gold and silver medal while Sana Javed bagged gold in 5 km race.
The table tennis team was also impressive. The duo of Mehvish Iftikhar and Arsalan Ahmed won gold medals in female and male competitions respectively.
In all their tally of medals included 17 gold, 25 silver and 14 bronze medals won over the course of the week long sporting extravaganza staged at the home of Olympics.
A sizeable crowd had gathered at Karachi Airport to welcome the contingent, the families of the athletes packed in numbers to greet their loved ones who had made them proud.
It was an uplifting experience to see the joy on the faces of the athletes who loved every minute of the media attention as their arrival was beamed live on various TV channels across the country.
Most of the athletes chanted slogans and thanked media for their support; they did everything they could to express their joy and their passion for life resonated through everyone present on the occasion.
Even before their departure the athletes had vowed to deliver their best and make the nation proud. They sure have achieved that, one hopes that in the days ahead they are given their due as it is pivotal to build onto the success in Athens and provide these athletes a platform where they can continue to make progress.
The special athletes of the country have proved that whatever the obstacles, there is nothing that can defeat human spirit and endurance. It is a lesson that we as a nation must learn.