ISLAMABAD - Pakistan’s national 100m hurdles and 100m flat champion Maria Maratab broke her own record enroute to her selection in the national athletics female team for the upcoming South Asian Games in India.

Talking to The Nation just after the two-day trials concluded at Pakistan Sports Complex on Monday, Maria said: “I am extremely happy that I managed to further improve my own timing. Although I finished runner-up in the 100m flat, yet I comfortably won the 100m hurdles and that too by day light between me and other competitors. I managed to record 15.15 seconds in the 100m hurdles, while my last best time was 15.35 seconds. I finished behind Sahb-i-Asra, who did a fantastic job by upsetting me, but it was a great dual between us.

“This feat will certainly help me and Pakistan in South Asian Games and also give me another challenge to not only competing against the best athletes of Bangladesh, India and Sri Lanka,” she added.

Maria said she had trained for the last one and half years at Islamabad under the guidance of head coach Sajjad Rana. “I know competition level will be quite tough in India and unfortunately, I didn’t win a major medal abroad, but now I am eager to earn international medal for my country.

“Although the facilities as satisfactory here at Pakistan Sports Complex yet we had faced some problems regarding accommodation a few weeks back, but now PSB DG and other supporting staff helped us out and shifted us to Allama Iqbal hostel, where we are feeling quite comfortable. I am also satisfied with the coach, but if Athletics Federation of Pakistan (APF) arranges at least six-month training abroad, it will be like dream comes true and also helping in boosting our chances of winning medals,” she added.

Sharing her views, national 800m champion Olympian Rabia Ashiq said that she had also improved her timing and clocked the best ever in trials. “I had the opportunity of playing in six international events including London 2012 Olympics, where although I failed to win medals yet managed to improve my timings in each event. I will vie for at least top three positions in South Asian Games. I am still only 22 and want to do a lot more for the country. “I have been training with Olympian Sumaira Zahoor and learning a lot from her and I will my best to utilize all the skills and techniques during the South Asian Games,” she added.

Preferring local coaches to international coaches, Rabia said she didn’t want international coaches and quite satisfied with local coach Sumaria. “I just want to request the AFP to arrange at least six months or one-year training abroad. I have set my sights on Rio Olympics, and it is my dream to win the Olympic medal for Pakistan,” she added.

Talking to The Nation, first timer at international senior stage, 19-year-old Samabia Noreen, who won the 400m relay trials, said: “I had participated in junior level and now this is the best chance for me to participate at senior level and perform well for the country. I opted to choose athletics when I was 11. I successfully won the 400m and ready to represent the country in this category.”

She refused that lack of international experience could hinder her chances in South Asian Games. “I have set my sights on finishing at least on podium.”

Female coaches Seemi Rizvi and Sumaira Zahoor were full of praise of their available squad and were upbeat about their players’ chances in the SAG. “The competition will be tough, but the girls are mentally and physically prepared for the challenge,” they said.