Wrestling is one of the three disciplines in which Pakistan has won a medal in Olympics when Mohammad Bashir claimed bronze in the 1960 Rome Games.
Hockey has been the most successful sport of Pakistan at Olympic level as the country has so far bagged three gold, three silver and two bronze medals in this discipline in the world’s most prestigious sporting spectacle. Boxing also has a tiny share in the shape of a bronze which Hussain Shahwon in the 1988 Seoul Olympics.
In hockey, Pakistan has already qualified for the 2012 London Olympics after claiming gold in the Asian Games last year in China, while the boxers failed to clear successfully the first hurdle when they flopped in the World Championship in Azerbaijan a few days ago. But they still have a chance to book a berth in next year’s Olympics by featuring in the
Asian qualifying round to be hosted by Kazakhstan in Astana in March 2012.
Wrestling is one of the few sports in which the country could qualify for the Olympics. After winning two gold medals in the Delhi Commonwealth Games last year, national
grapplers showed the Pakistan’s sports chiefs that they has the guts to move ahead but needed their proper attention.
Pakistan’s wrestling chiefs plan to field a host of leading wrestlers in the Olympic qualifying rounds to be held in Taiyuan (China) from April 25-29, 2012 and Helsinki (Finland) from May 2-6.
Before these events, the country’s grapplers will have to appear in the Asian Championship to be hosted by Kazakhstan in Almaty from March 28 to April 1.
The continental event is mandatory and only those wrestlers eligible to participate in the China and Finland Olympic qualifying rounds, will feature in the Asian Championship.
“We would like to field a maximum number of wrestlers in the Asian Championship which is mandatory for taking part in the Olympic qualifying rounds,” the secretary of the Pakistan Wrestling Federation (PWF), Chaudhry Mohammad Asghar, told The News in an interview recently.
Luckily, Pakistan’s top wrestlers and the gold medallists of the Commonwealth Games — Azhar Hussain and Mohammad Inam — will be going to South Korea in the next few days to undergo a two-month training programme under scholarship which was granted to the duo by the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA).
The exercise will help them prepare for the Olympic qualifying rounds as wrestlers from around 10 leading countries of the world will attend the joint training.
The PWF is thinking about holding a camp for these vital assignments in Islamabad as soon as possible.
“After the departure of Azhar and Inam to South Korea, we would also like to hold a camp in Islamabad in which 18 wrestlers will be invited,” Asghar said.
“I am going to meet a Pakistan Sports Board (PSB) top official and hopefully the Board will provide us all the facilities,” Chaudhry said.
“Our wrestlers won medals last year in the Commonwealth Games after 41 years. And this shows that we have talents, but wrestlers need proper facilities,” he said.
“Apart from Azhar and Inam, we have several other top class wrestlers who could click in the Olympic qualifying rounds provided they are trained accordingly,” Chaudhry said.
He further said that Pakistan would also need a foreign coach for the preparatory phase.
“We need a foreign coach and would like to bring in our former Iranian, Coach Ali Reza Moazzan, to prepare the lot for the challenging assignments,” he revealed.
British Wrestling hopes for an end to infighting within the sport. British Wrestling executive are free to focus on the 2012 Olympic Games after surviving a vote to remove them.
Scottish Wrestling called for the resignation of key figures, after a row over selection at the recent World Championships, but failed to attain majority support at the AGM last week.
“As in the sport, a win is a win,” said BWA chief executive Colin Nicholson.
“Hopefully now we can all get down to delivering the best Olympics British Wrestling can.”
Nicholson told BBC Sport: “It’s been a very difficult year to date with the dissenting voices distracting me - but I have offered them the chance to raise their main concerns which the board will consider and respond to in due course.”
Scottish Wrestling president, Gerry Malone stepped down from the BWA board following the AGM, but said that despite their calls for resignation, failing to carry Scottish Wrestling could draw positives from the results.
“The vote was split for many of the motions - we have certainly left them with plenty to think about,” Malone told BBC Sport.
“We will work to create an environment which is to the betterment of British Wrestling, but we can’t go on with these issues - we live in hope of change.”
Scottish Wrestling had claimed they had been blocked by British Wrestling from entering athletes outside of the GB programme under the ‘Scotland’ banner in internationals.
However, Fila president, Raphaël Martinetti confirmed that, after provisionally allowing Scotland and Wales to enter events, excluding World and European Championships, it was the sport’s international governing body that withdrew this offer last month.
“It was decided that this would open the door to other complicated situations and other countries would have asked for the same rights [for example Ossetia and Dagestan, within Russia],” Martinetti told BBC Sport.
He also confirmed that despite previously raising concerns over the British programme, they now officially recognise the authority of wrestling in Great Britain to the British Wrestling Association.
“This decision requires from the British Wrestling Federation a strong promotion of wrestling, without any kind of discrimination on the whole British territory [England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales] - who must have the same voting and participation rights to elections and competitions,” added Martinetti.
“We’ll work with the wrestling nations and regions to make sure we have an integrated enduring talent pathway through to the GB squad.”
It has been a difficult year for British Wrestling, which achieved just one victory at the recent World Championships in Turkey and has faced criticism for including foreign sparring partners within GB international squads at other events.
However, they are now working with Sport England on a new domestic ‘Talent Pathway’ initiative, aimed at developing home-grown wrestlers.
Speaking on Radio 5 live, Sport England Director, Phil Smith said: “Wrestling is demonstrating progress and additional funds will be a good investment towards sustaining a legacy for wrestling.”