Saadi aims for gold at Islamic Games

KARACHI: Well aware of the world’s tough fighters he will face, seasoned Pakistani karateka and former Asian champion Saadi Abbas said on Wednesday he will go for the gold medal at the Islamic Games, scheduled for August 9-18 in Konya, Turkey.

“Of course I will play for the gold medal,” Saadi told ‘The News’ in an interview from Dubai.

“My category is the most difficult because the fighters from Islamic countries are very tough. A fighter from Uzbekistan recently won the World Championship title. Egypt got silver while a fighter from Kazakhstan took bronze. Jordan got the fourth position. Iran did not participate in the global event due to its internal problems. The Iranian boy is a top player, just like the Turkish boy. He recently won European Championship gold and can exploit home conditions as well. There is a fighter from Azerbaijan and a fighter from Saudi Arabia who recently won gold in Egypt in the Premier League. But it will depend on how the prints will be. Regardless of the draws, you will have to beat the best fighters to reach the final,” Saadi said.

“But not everyone will come to the same group because some fighters will go to the other group. I have prepared a strategy for this. Unlike the Olympic qualifiers, I changed my strategy. You know the results are not in our hands. We can only work hard and I work very hard. Of course I am going for the gold and I will go for the gold inshaAllah for the nation,” said Saadi, also a two-time former Commonwealth Championship gold medalist.

Saadi will land in Lahore on Thursday (today) to join the national camp taking place at PSB Coaching Center in Lahore.

He said he asked the government to send them to Turkey ten days before the start of the Islamic Games karate event.

“If the government sends us to Turkey ten days before the Islamic Games karate event, then we can train in Istanbul before moving to Konya. It will not cost the state any additional ticket fees, but the government will only need to bear our board and accommodation costs in Istanbul for ten days. We will have good fights there which will help us in the Islamic Games,” said Saadi, also a former US Open gold medalist.

He said that during his training phase in Lahore, he planned differently. “It will be very hot there. In hot weather if you plan to train for two hours, you will lose energy in an hour and will not be able to stick to your plan due to sweating. I planned alternately. I will try to manage at least three days of training for my entire team at Central Punjab University which has an air-conditioned hall so that we can do proper training,” Saadi said.

“The plan is after I reach Pakistan tomorrow I will strategize and for sure the team will have confidence,” he said.

“In Dubai, we had a good training, but it is necessary for me to come to Pakistan to train with my team and support them,” he said. “Our key player Awais has unfortunately developed a knee injury and he is not playing in the Islamic Games and we only have two seniors in the squad including me,” he said.

“It’s not easy to perform well in the Islamic Games because in karate, Islamic countries have huge talent and you will have to beat big stars to finish on the victory podium. This is no joke. We will try to prepare well for the event,” said Saadi whose presence in the camp will give confidence to the entire team that will participate in the Islamic Games.

At the 2017 Baku Islamic Games, Saadi was the only player to win silver in individual sports.

Murad (60kg), Naseer Ahmed (67kg), Saadi Abbas (75kg), Imran (-84kg), Sana Kausar (55kg), Fakhrunnisa (61kg), Kulsoom (-68kg) and Nargas (+68kg) are expected to represent Pakistan in a karate event at the Islamic Games. The karate event will begin on August 16.

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