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ULAANBAATAR, Mongolia: Pakistani wrestlers and officials are confident to break decades-long medal drought in the Asian Wrestling Championship which began at Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, on Tuesday.
As many as three leading wrestlers of Pakistan including Mohammad Inam (86kg), Mohammad Bilal (57kg) and Inayatullah (65kg) are set to flex their muscles in the event being hosted by Mongolia for the third time since its inception in 1979 in Jalandhar, India.
With both Inam and Inayatullah already in Mongolia, Bilal was scheduled to fly out of Lahore for Ulaanbaatar in the wee hours of Wednesday (today) to join the duo.
The two-time Commonwealth Games champion Inam and Youth Olympics bronze medallist Inayatullah had reached Mongolia on April 7 to undergo training alongside wrestlers of Asian nations. They also played some matches against the grapplers of the local clubs and against international players during the past couple of weeks.
This was after a long time that national grapplers were sent a few days ahead of the event.
Pakistan last lifted medal in 1991 New Delhi Asian Championship when Abdul Majeed Maruwala had snared silver in the 100 kilogramme weight category. And since then Pakistan stuggled in the event. Pakistan team coach Ghulam Fareed hopes that they will break the 30-year medal jinx.
“The boys trained here well and their morale is very high. InshaAllah we will win medal for the country after 30 years,” Fareed told this correspondent from Mongolia on Tuesday.
Meanwhile Inam was also hopeful.
“We played around six matches here and won them all and are very hopeful to get medal for the country,” Inam told this correspondent from Ulaanbaatar.
“There were little bit of issues as Mongolian team was in recovery mode and we had come for training phase. Inyat has also worked hard and hopefully we will win medal for the country,” Inam said.
Meanwhile Bilal also hopes that they will break the medal jinx this time.
“We will break the medal jinx InshaAllah as you know we last got medal years ago,” Bilal said hours before leaving for Mongolia.
Bilal said that he has worked very hard and is mainly focussed on the Mongolia event.
“I have trained hard and am solely focussed on the event,” said Bilal, who is also the cousin of Inam.
“In the previous event I had finished fifth and this time I have worked very hard and will give good news to the nation,” Bilal said.
Draws will be held on Friday for all freestyle weight categories as per programme of the event.
Ulaanbaatar is very cold and the temperature even reaches -10 degree Celsius. Bilal will only get a couple of days before going for his fight. But the grappler is quite confident, saying he will not face any big issue to get acclimatised with the conditions.
“Yes, its very cold and there will be little bit of issue but I am confident to adjust quickly and there will be no such big problem,” Bilal said.
The Asian Championship will be a testing phase for the national grapplers and will help them prepare for the Commonwealth Games slated to be held in Birmingham from July 28 to August 8.
Meanwhile a senior official of Pakistan Wrestling Federation (PWF) also hopes for a medal.
“All three have medal chance,” PWF vice-president Arshad Sattar told this correspondent.
“Both Inam and Inayat have done good training in Mongolia while Bilal has trained well here and I am hopeful for a good outcome,” Arshad said.
Bilal and Inayat will play on April 23 while Inam will compete on April 24.
In the 1979 inaugural edition hosted by India in Jalandhar Mohammad Azeem claimed gold for Pakistan in the 57kg while MOhammad Salahuddin snared bronze in the +100kg. In 1981 edition hosted by Pakistan in Lahore Sohail Rashid picked silver while Salahuddin claimed bronze. In 1983 Tehran event Pakistan captured three silvers and four bronze, in 1987 edition in Mumbai Pakistan lifted one silver and one bronze, in 1988 Islamabad edition Pakistan captured one silver and one bronze, in 1989 Japan edition Pakistan picked two silvers while in 1991 New Delhi edition Abdul Majeed Maruwala won silver for the country in 100kg which also turned out to be the last medal which the country picked in the continental event.