Athlete Sana carries torch, wins hearts | The Express Tribune


Pakistan’s Sana made the spectators at the iconic Olympiastadion root for her as she ran with all her might as one of the seven torchbearers at the opening ceremony of the 16th Special Olympics World Games in Berlin on Saturday night.

The sprinter from Mirpurkhas looked ecstatic and won hearts as she ran like she was running for her event.

“Sana said that she was very happy, it is huge for her, it is huge for Pakistan,” the media manager for the Special Olympics Pakistan (SOP), Asif Azeem, told The Express Tribune from Berlin.

The female athletes and officials wore colourful ghararas (eastern formal attire), and the male athletes donned traditional kameez shalwar suits with waistcoats.

“All the athletes were very happy to be here and as they walked with Pakistani flags in their hands at the opening ceremony, they showed that they are not only here to enjoy themselves but also show the world that they are strong and determined,” said Azeem.

The Special Olympics head Timothy Shriver, and the President of Germany Frank-Walter Steinmeier, opened the ceremony. SOP chairperson Ronak Lakhani is also accompanying the contingent and she was present at the ceremony as the head of the delegation. The SOP ambassador Sarwat Gillani also joined the contingent, and advisor Yasmeen Haider was also present.

Azeem added that the athletes had been putting in hard yards for the last four years. “The last World Games took place in 2019, and right after that the preparations for the next games started. The SOP chairperson Ronak Lakhani has led the preparations and the athletes and the staff beautifully this time as well.

“The athletes got their camps in Karachi, Lahore, and Islamabad with their coaches. We came here to Berlin five days before the event.

“Here too, the chairperson arranged it in a way that the athletes had time to acclimatize themselves to the conditions.”

The SOP is fielding 87 athletes, with 54 being males and 33 females, who will be competing in 11 different sports.

On Sunday, Azeem said that Pakistan had their field hockey match scheduled after the assessment.

“There have been two matches for Pakistan, against Belgium and Germany, while assessments for the abilities of the players in powerlifting and swimming also took place on Sunday,” said Azeem.

He added that the athletes were well taken care of by the Pakistani community in Berlin as well. “We had a biryani party, where the athletes enjoyed their favourite food, and the Pakistani community here has been happy to indulge them. Similarly, the athletes wanted to eat daal (Pakistani-style cooked lentils) and the hotel in which we are being accommodated, they arranged for it. It has been a very joyous time for all,” said Azeem.

He said that Sana, swimmers Hassan and Fatima, and Bocci player Simran Mahesh were enjoying their training sessions with top-class facilities in Berlin.

“Simran has been very happy, she told me that she is enjoying the rain here very much, she also likes to meet all the new people here. The weather here is colder compared to what we have in Pakistan, so many athletes are getting used to it. We have doctors with us, too, who are there for them, but the athletes are enjoying the rain that they see intermittently here,” said Azeem.

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