Making Pakistan proud! Gold medalist weightlifter Usman Amjad Rathore speaks exclusively to HELLO! about his sporting journey.
Tell us a little about yourself and your journey as a weightlifter.
My journey took off in 1999. I started as a free-style wrestler but switched to weightlifting six months later. My father is a weightlifter too. He is a veteran and plays within age groups. He is also a national and international champion. He inspired me to get into this field. In 2010 I faced an injury while I was in Kiev, Ukraine which led to my leg being severely damaged. I was bed ridden for two years due to my left leg being paralyzed.
How did you enter into this field? Was it always the dream?
I had no knowledge of weightlifting, it was my father who pushed me to take up this career. He enrolled me into a weightlifting club and that’s where I learnt everything. He was a passionate and proud weightlifter himself.
Is there enough government support for athletes and what kind of help do they require?
Most of the governments focus is on cricket and even our national sport, hockey is on the back burner. There is a general lack of support especially compared to other countries where governments provide many more facilities to their athletes. In other countries there are national camps that are always ongoing. From the time that an athlete starts their career to the time they retire they are always in camp, this is not the case in Pakistan. We need international standard training facilities, kits, equipment and accessories which the government should provide. In order for us to succeed we need physiotherapists and nutritionists, at the moment there are no teams in Pakistan that have such facilities.
Sports persons and athletes have a limit on how long they can perform, is sports a viable career option in Pakistan?
You’re right, an athlete has an age limit on how long they can be at the top of their game but it also depends on the sport that you play. For instance if you are in athletics or a sprinter, you have very short period of about 5 to 7 years that you can be active. Even if you are a weight lifter you usually retire at around 28 or 29 years if you are a world level athlete. In Pakistan though, there seems to be a bit more longevity and people are still weight lifting till the age of 40.
What skills have you learnt as a weightlifter that you can apply to your life?
The most important skill that weight lifting has taught me is discipline, having a routine, sleeping on time and waking up on time. It has also taught me to work hard, motivate myself and how to dedicate myself to my sport. Most importantly this sport has taught me to be able to control my desires and impluses so as not to go astray. Alhamdullilah this sport has helped me tremendously in being patient and improving my temperament.
What are your other interests; How do you relax and unwind?
In order to relax and unwind, I like to travel, I am also a big fan of Hollywood movies. I love to read and have a particular interest in religious and spiritual works. I enjoy watching National Geographic and Discovery Channel and for my own entertainment as well of that of others I really enjoy making Tik Tok videos.
You’ve participated and represented Pakistan in many different countries. What evident difference have you noticed? Is there something Pakistan can inherit?
The difference I have seen is, if a foreign male deserving athlete has lost a competition or is disqualified or faced an injury while training few days before or during a competition, his coaches, his government, his team don’t demotivate or discourage him in fact they motivate and encourage him. This situation is the opposite over here in Pakistan, if god forbid this was your case, you are immediately talked bad about, wrongly blamed and often told this was done on purpose.
What advice would you give to young athletes like yourself?
If I had to give advice to other young athletes I would tell them to work on their temperament and not to rush things. People start playing a sport and think that they will become Champion the next day. They are looking for money and fame and want to win immediately. That is not how things work, one has to sacrifice alot and pass through a tunnel where you learn to give up on your desires. To be successful as an athlete you sacrifice not just your time but also friends and all other habits that can lead you astray. You have to be single minded in your focus on your sport along with keeping a positive mindset. As an athlete you must spend all your time thinking about your sport and how to achieve your targets. You should be able to identify your weaknesses and figure out how to improve in those areas. Only then can you achieve your goal of winning or getting that gold medal. If you think you can have a normal life and be successful in sports, that is not possible.
Three main goals you hope to achieve by the end of the year 2020.
Due to the current situation led by the coronavirus pandemic, there are no competitions. We haven’t stopped training though. Even during the lockdown, we have been training. There were national and international competitions but due to the pandemic they were postponed even the Olympics is postponed to a year. Till now there are no competitions as of yet but my 2020 target is to achieve my best weightlifting goals once again, win another gold medal in the upcoming National Championship and lastly, break my previous national records Inshallah.
Where do you like to see yourself five years from now?
In these upcoming five years I have high hopes and good intentions god willing. I have no plans of retiring—I don’t have the heart to leave this field as of yet. There are a lot of international events coming up such as the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham and the South Asian Games in 2021 which Pakistan will be hosting. I’ve previously also bagged three medals—two gold and one silver at the South Asian Games. I will be partaking once again and will be playing on home ground inshallah. My aim is to achieve a gold medal same for the Commonwealth Games in 2022. So far these are my plans till 2022 not sure about what lies ahead but I will continue weightlifting for the next five years.