LAHORE: Pakistan has not much representation in belt, Alysh freestyle and classic mat wresting. Pakistan has never sent women wrestling team in international event except recently held 5th Asian Indoor and Marshal Arts Games in Turkmenistan, held in September, where the women athletes showed the world how much they are talented and one female Pakistani wrestler Ambreen Ashiq stood out clearly.

While representing first Pakistan Women Wrestling Team, Ambreen (first Christian woman to do so) clinched three bronze medals in belt, Alysh and traditional style of mat wrestling.

While talking exclusively to The Nation, Ms. Ashiq said she was the best performer in Pakistani contingent.

“I won one medal in my regular weight of -54 kg, and two other medals in weight categories of -58 and -60kg,” she said.

Ambreen, however, asserted that she was cheated in two Semi-finals by the local referees and judges.

“I lost one semi fairly but in other two, the judges and referees from Kyrgyzstan dropped my points. After declaring me winner earlier, they reduced my points and declared the other as winner and I have video proof of those cheatings.

“I would have surely qualified in finals of those two matches, if there was fair play,” she was of the view.

While sharing the details about her training and preparations, she stated that all wrestlers attended a month-long training camp in Coaching Centre near Qaddafi Stadium, Lahore.

“Despite a short camp and effects of changed weather especially in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan-hot in day, cold at night-we did our best and won the medals,” she said.

The medal-winner further shared about the games and shared that only one girl was participating in one class while other countries had A and B teams. Hence their chances of winning medals were higher but despite that we won the medals.

“Our girls defeated the wrestlers from almost 15 to 16 participating countries including India, Philippines and Turkmenistan,” she shared.

While sharing the difference of importance giving to this sport in other countries specifically Turkmenistan, Ambreen mentioned that she went to Turkmenistan last year and during her visit this year, it was huge difference as they were promoting it on TV, had put up billboards, promotions, advertisements and even their top political leaders were supporting them.

“Here we had short camps and still hopes for winning gold without investing much effort and money in this sport as cricket is our only priority here and everyone appreciates and encourage cricketers,” she said.

About her early training and starting point, Ambreen stated that she and her sister Humera Ashiq started training from coaches Sir Shahid and Sir Naveed who own a club in Garden Town, Lahore.

“I started as Judo player from very early age but there are very low chances of progress for women in this sport in Pakistan hence I switched to belt wrestling,” she said.

She stated that the belt wrestling sport was held by Ju-Jitsu Federation earlier. Later Wrestling Federation took it over and the first ever women wrestler contingent was sent abroad to Asian games.

“We do not have proper national level games in Pakistan for last six to seven years as they have been cancelled for number of reasons again and again. Despite no experience even at national level we won the medals at international level,” Ambreen said.

“And from that you can guess, the level of talent and potential of athletes especially women athletes in Pakistan,” she said.

“Some officials were not ready to send women wrestling team as they were of the view that we will not win any medal but one of our coaches insisted and we were allowed to go,” she said.

“We were team of four girls and won 7 medals where as Men’s team had 40 wrestlers and they only won 4 medals and this shows the immense talent of girls in our country,” she stated.

Ambreen Ashiq, however, commended and praised the overall role of Wrestling Federation and stated that they trusted us-the girls- and gave us this opportunity.

“We have girls in other sports like tennis, swimming and there is a taboo in our society for girls playing wrestling,” she said.

“My message to girls and their parents is that, wrestling is a great sports for girls. There is no issue of dress code and it has great scope. I will encourage girls to become wrestlers,” she maintained.

About the growth of this sport Ambreen said more tournaments should be held at domestic level and teams from other countries should be invited to Pakistan as it will polish our techniques, style and game.