Qaisar Khan Afridi, a 17-year-old Judo prodigy from the tribal area of Bara, Khyber Agency, is all set to raise the Pakistani flag high alongside his compatriots at the Asian Games starting in August.
Qaisar, ranked 24 in the cadet category of the world rankings, is itching to prove his mettle in the -90kg event in Jakarta.
On the back of his recent performance in Kyrgyzstan at the Asian Cup Cadet event, where he won a bronze medal defeating a local judoka and world number 25 Anarbek Ishenbaev to improve his world ranking in cadet category to 24, Qaisar believes he can go all the way at the upcoming Games.
“It has been a huge step for me to get a medal at the Asian Cup Cadet event,” Qaisar told The Express Tribune from Kyrgyzstan.
“I know I’ve come a long way, I was ranked 29th before this medal,” he added. “It is not easy, but it is not impossible either and my eyes are on the Asian Games and Youth Olympics medals. I needed to be in top shape in order to win this medal, but we’ll need help with camps. Not just me, but other athletes too. I can see that other sports have their camps started for Asian Games, but judokas haven’t got any news yet. So I’m concerned.”
Qaisar fights for Army on contract in domestic tournaments, but he feels that there is a scope to grow, especially with an opportunity like making a debut at the Youth Olympics.
But to keep himself fit and ready he says that he has to train at least six hours a day at home in his club in Bara.
“For the Asian Cadet Championship I trained even on Eid. I asked one of my friends to work with me even when everyone else was celebrating, so the sacrifices are to be made, and I’m ready for anything, because my dream is to raise our flag high. I train day and night for this, without the camp too,” explained Qaisar.
However, the challenge for Qaisar is to stay in the top 25 rankings till next month in order to confirm his place in the Youth Olympics, and for that he needs more events and training.
According to the Pakistan Judo Federation official Masood Ahmed, the plan for Qaisar is to get him two more tournaments in Honk Kong and Macau next month, while the federation themselves are waiting for the Pakistan Sports Board (PSB) to announce the dates for the national camp.
“Our judokas are extremely capable and they need the support. Qaisar is a shining example of it. He has achieved so much at such young age, but the PSB need to announce our national camp dates soon and it is true that athletes in other sports have begun their preparations for the Asian Games as well,” said Ahmed.
Ahmed explained that the judokas can also have a training camp in Hungary as the International Judo Federation have invited Pakistan for it, while the athletes can go to Croatia to compete at the tournament during August.
The strength of the national camp can be 10 boys, six girls and two coaches.