The Pakistan squad comes bearing 56 medals as they return to the country today after a successful run at the recently-concluded Special Olympics Summer Games 2011 in Athens, Greece.
Pakistan bagged 17 gold medals, 25 silver and 14 bronze medals while competing in a week-long event that featured 7,500 athletes from 180 countries around the world.
The 82-member contingent participated in eight sports including athletics, aquatics, badminton, basketball, bocce, cycling, football and table tennis.
According to the delegation head Ronak Lakhani, while it was important that the country managed to secure 56 medals, however, the Special Olympics of Pakistan’s aim was to encourage all athletes and ensure that every member of the squad was treated like a winner.
During the competitive week at the Games, some athletes made a bigger mark than others. Adeel Ameer, an 18-year-old came out victorious in the 100-metre run, high-jump and 4×100 metre events to become the most successful athlete in the squad, grabbing the top positions in the three events that he participated in.
Meanwhile, 11-year old Bakhtawar Gul secured two gold medals in the 100-metre run and long jump-events and a silver medal in the 4×100-metre relay race.
The Games, however, were not free of setbacks. Rahimullah Baig had to face a disqualification in the 800-metre run, but the 17-year-old spirited athlete never gave up hope and managed to win a silver medal in the 1500-metre run and bagged a gold medal in the 4×100-metre relay race with Ameer, Tahir Siddique and Sakhawat Ali, who also won silver medals in shot-put and the 200-metre individual race.
“Athletics team won the most medals for Pakistan,” coach Javad Arshad told The Express Tribune. “All my athletes have improved because of the strong domestic structure that we have in place to train them.
“We had been preparing these athletes for the last two years in their cities, while we began the camp for the Olympic Games four months prior to the event. It has paid off well.”
Meanwhile, Amir Munawar emerged as the only swimmer to win two silver medals at the 25-metre breaststroke and 25-metre freestyle events, whereas cyclist Sana Javed bagged a gold medal in the five-kilometre race and silver in 1000-metre event. Billawal Aslam secured one gold and two bronze medals despite a prior shoulder injury.
In the team sports, Pakistan men and women basketball teams won silver medals, while Suhail Khan and Rabia Saeed won badminton singles titles. Similarly, Mehwish Iftikhar and Arsalan Ahmed won table tennis singles events in their respective categories.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 5th, 2011.