Miraal Haque and Mishael Hyat Ayub win gold in swimming Junior Nationals 2015

Miraal Haque and Mishael Hyat Ayub win gold in swimming Junior Nationals 2015

Miraal Haque and Mishael Hyat Ayub win gold in swimming Junior Nationals 2015

Miraal Haque and Mishael Hyat Ayub win gold in swimming Junior Nationals 2015

Miraal Hague (left) and Mishael Hyat Ayub (right) – gold from the water at Junior Nationals 2015.

Young swimmers headed for South Asian Games

By Our Correspondent

LAHORE: Miraal Ilaque lives in Karachi. Mishael Hyat Ayub lives in Lahore. But the two 13-year-olds share a common passion – swimming – and their dedication to it has brought them immense success with both young teens making it to the Pakistan National Team, selected for the South Asian Games to be held in Guwahati and Shillong in India from February Gth to lGth this year.

They are among the six female swimmers selected for the Games after the challenge of trials organised by the Pakistan Swimming Federation in Islamabad last month. This will be the first international event for both girls and t heir achievement shows there are swimmers coming up across the country, despite tire difficulties the sport faces.

Miraal says, “I started swimming competitively two years ago. I enjoyed it a lot and I also wanted to do the Sindh Open.”

While Mishael began playing around and learning to swim at her family swimming pool when she was .just eighteen months old, like Miraal she says she only took up competitive swimming in early 2014.

“I am glad I did this,” Mishael says, “and happy that the Punjab team gave me this opportunity”. Both girls have lived up to the confidence placed in them by their teams. Miraal swims for Sindh and says “I swim straight after school and do all my homework when I get home. I still have lots of time to do other things”.

Swimming though is hard work, and involves at least two hours of training daily for most swimmers. Unfortunately, there has been little effort made to promote it in our country, despite its benefits. Veena Masud, Secretary General of the Pakistan Swimming Federation, told The News

“Swimming is a sport that can save a life, so it is important that it be made available to the public. There are no public swimming pools in our country. The government has a responsibility to build pools for its people”. She explained that this could help Pakistan tap into the nursery of potentially talented swimmers who right now have no access to swimming pools, which means the sport is currently open only to the elite who can afford clubs and schools that have swimming pools.

Access to swimming is especially difficult for girls because of cultural restrictions. Very few girls swim in the country which means there is a limited base of swimmers. Ghulam Murtaza, Chief Coach for VVAPDA, who also trains Mishael. says “outside the big cities, it is simply not possible for children to swim. Girls get no chance at all. There is lots of talent out there but we need to offer swinmting at government schools, encourage departments to promote the sport and make it more accessible to people if we are to bring more swimmers into the field.” He also believes improving swimming coaching at schools and establishing a culture of club swimming is vital. Miraal and
Mishael are among the fortunate few who are able to swim. But they have also worked hard for their success. “Swimming can be hard work, especially when one is training, but I also find it fun and enjoy it a lot,” said Mishael. Miraal agrees. “Butterfly is the hardest stroke, but I love swimming it and 200 metres butterfly is my favourite event. It’s what I’m doing at the South Asian Games.”

Mishael will be swimming the 200m Individual Medley, the 400m freestyle and the 800m freestyle at the Games. “I enjoy other sports, but swimming is my favourite and I like doing the IM because you have to do all four strokes and I like the challenge of that.” She says her coach, Ghulam Murtaza, has also helped her a lot by offering encouragement and guidance whenever needed. But swimming is not only about the pool. Veena Masud believes the sport “Hones concentration that results in more focused students who produce better grades and also offers a healthy lifestyle.” She says a sw immer needs to have “Inherent talent, the desire and focus as well as good, positive parental support and a knowledgeable coach with updated techniques who is also a mentor.” She emphasizes that swim training must also be fun and swimmers need to be encouraged to compete to better their time rather than just focus on winning medals. “Yes, I think swimming has taught me to manage time better. I do well at my academics also, and 1 believe all children should take up some sport because it is so important to build discipline anil to be fit and active.” Both swimmers say they will be trying their best while representing Pakistan in India and donning the green blazer for the first time. Perhaps they can inspire other children to also take up the sport.