Tuesday Aug 24, 2021
A Pakistani cyclist is striving to make her grandfather proud of her, by choosing to excel in a sport he made a name for himself in.
Asma Jan was selected in Pakistan’s four-member cycling team to represent the country in World Road Cycling Championship, to be played in Belgium next month. The other members of the team are Kanza Malik, Ali Ilyas and Khalil Amjad.
All these athletes are preparing hard for the championship. While Kanza trains in Lahore, the rest of the team practice on a daily basis near Sea View, in Karachi’s DHA area.
Although the entire team has the same motivation to win, Asma has slightly different goals to excel at the championship.
The 45-year old cyclist is a mother of three but wants to achieve what her grandfather couldn’t 90 years ago.
The renowned cyclist of Indian sub-continent Mehta Abdul Khaliq, according to Asma Jan, was her grandfather.
“He was Punjab’s champion and was selected for the Olympics but then, World War II began and he couldn’t go to the sports pinnacle, leaving his dreams shattered. Now, I feel that I have to achieve that dream and do that unfinished job. This gives me more motivation, to go and represent Pakistan at the world event is a step towards achieving my nana’s dreams,” she told Geo News during an interview.
Asma was happy to see female cyclists being promoted and nominated to represent her country but she doesn’t want a participant in World Championship just for the sake of being a participant.
“I want to be a better version of myself every time I am on the track, participating or practicing – I want to beat myself. So, I will be competing against myself. If I could beat myself, then I will be happy,” Asma said.
“I will give my best.” Asma promised.
The World Road Cycling Championship is scheduled to be held in Flanders, Belgium, from 16 to 25 September 2021.
Asma is joined by Kanza Malik, the national women’s champion, in the squad. Kanza feels that Pakistan is relatively new when it comes to women's cycling and athletes here don’t have the facilities that are provided to their counterparts around the world. However, she has high hopes from the team.
Kanza is being guided by a UK-based coach who is providing regular data analysis and other guidance on the basis of her cycling readings.
“It is a great honor for me to represent Pakistan at the world championship. Pakistan is relatively new in this sport but it has gained so much popularity recently, especially among women,” she said.
“When it comes to amount of gears and technical support that the international players have, we obviously don’t have that,” Kanza lamented.
Kanza said her participation in the World Championship is just the beginning for women's cycling in Pakistan and will pave the way for more female cyclists in future.
Ali Illyas, the men’s cycling champion of Pakistan, while talking to Geo News on the sidelines of his training, added that he will “run his heart out” during the next month’s championship.
While he agreed that this is just a first step for Pakistani cyclists towards competitive events after a gap, Ali highlighted that when a player is representing his country, then there are no ifs and buts.
“An athlete’s job is to give his best and that’s what we all will be aiming to do, rest depends on Allah’s will,” Ali said.
“Competitions are life and blood for an athlete and these events give an athlete the opportunity to learn and improve his skills. You don’t expect an athlete to go and win everything in his maiden events, everyone starts from the first step. My personal goal is to give my best, I want to run my heart out. We will be doing it all for our country, so I will give [everything have got] from my side,” he said.
Ali’s teammate Khalil Amjad said that a cyclist needs extensive training to prepare for any tournament and the athlete cannot afford to take a break.
“We have worked hard and have been doing this for years, we always wanted to participate in competitive cycling events. It demands regular training because if you miss even a couple of days of training, you push yourself two weeks back,” Khalil said.
Pakistani athletes plan to fly to Belgium in the second week of September to take part in the world championship.