Pakistani Women Olympic Athletes

I have recently been focussed more on negative aspects of Pakistan recently on this blog. A long time ago, I had plans of “good news” posts about Pakistan, but that never materialized. Now, there is a weblog, Pak Positive, blogging news items of general interest about Pakistan. As the blogger mentions:

One fine evening, after browsing dozens of internet websites and news blogs, I realized that I had not read a single piece of general-interest news about Pakistan. All I read about Pakistan or any of our cities was in relation with terrorism, violence, intolerance, bomb-blasts, Al-Qaeda, extremism, etc. At that point I truly craved for some ‘ordinary’ news from Pakistan. After all, we are a living, breathing society where something ‘civilized’ must happen, or ordinary people aren’t always killing each other to rid of them from Pakistan! That’s when I decided to start this blog.

Pak Positive pointed me to the female Pakistani athletes taking part in the Olympics this year. There is Sumera Zahoor taking part in the 1500m event which will be taking place August 24. In addition, there is the first Pakistani woman in the Olympic swimming event this year, Rubab Raza.

Thirteen-year-old Rubab Raza’s day runs in multiples of five. She prays five times a day, goes to school five hours a day and swims five hours a day as she prepares to go for gold in the Olympics 50-metre freestyle in Athens in August.

Raza already wears the crown of Pakistan’s fastest swimmer; now the dark-eyed teenager is poised to become the conservative Islamic republic’s first woman to plunge into the Olympic pool.

[…]In the Frontier where life is more conservative, the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal government has slapped an official ban on male coaches training women athletes.

Luckily for Raza, such bans don’t exist in vibrant Lahore. Her coach is a veteran male swimmer, Munawar Luqman.

“I train daily for about two to three hours in the morning and two hours in the evening,” she said.

[…]The ninth year student at Jesus and Mary Convent School has since gone on to claim 10 national medals: three in the open category and seven in her own age group.

At the last South Asia Federation games in March she picked up a bronze and two silver medals.

Rubab is not the first Pakistani woman (girl) to compete in the Olympics, only the first swimmer.

The track is where Pakistani women made their Olympic debut. The first woman to ever represent Pakistan in an Olympic event was Shabana Akhtar, who ran the 100-metre and 200-metre sprints at Atlanta in 1996. Another female runner Shazia Hidayat competed at the Sydney 2000 Olympics.

Rubab has also taken part in championships in India and Spain.

She will be competing in the 50m freestyle heats on August 20.

Rubab is also not the first Pakistani female swimmer to compete internationally. There have been a couple of other women in recent years.

Though it’s not easy for women to be participating in disciplines like swimming —- with the usual outfit going well against the norm —- she is not the first Pakistani swimmer to make waves internationally. When Rubab participated in the FINA World Women’s Championship in Barcelona last year, Kiran Khan was the other Pakistani in the pool. And earlier in 2002, Sana Wahid got the honour of becoming the first Pakistani woman to take the plunge when she participated in the 50m freestyle at the Commonwealth Games.

Before 2000, however, due to social limitations it was out of the question for Pak women to do what Rubab and the rest are doing today. It was only after FINA —- the governing body for the sport —- relaxed the dress code and allowed body-suits that it became possible.

Sumaira and Rubab are nowhere close to winning a medal at the Olympics, but I hope they do well.

UPDATE: Rubab Raza finished 5th out of 8 in the 50m freestyle heats.

UPDATE II: Sumaira Zahoor finished last in the 1500m heat.

By Zack

Dad, gadget guy, bookworm, political animal, global nomad, cyclist, hiker, tennis player, photographer


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