ISLAMABAD - Former Olympian Sumaira Zahoor has urged the Athletic Federation of Pakistan (AFP) to help her establish an academy for female athletes where she promised to produce champions for the country.

Talking to The Nation, Sumaira, whose professional career as top athlete restarted from 2001 and ended in 2007, said: “The genuine female athletics talent is almost finished in the country which is an alarming situation for the Athletics Federation of Pakistan (AFP), which must announce open trials and hunt fresh talent to promote female athletics. I urge the AFP to initiate four-year plan if they want to get better results at international level.”

About establishing her female athletics academy, Sumaira said: “I don’t have resources to work on bigger platform so I am just focusing on individuals to groom them and convert them into future stars. If the government, Pakistan Sports Board (PSB) and the AFP helps me establish my academy, I am ready to take up this responsibility and promise, I will help the country in getting future stars.”

Revealing about resurgence of her professional career, Sumaira, who is working in Grade-17 in Steel Mills, said: “During my playing days, we used to work very hard to win the international medals as compare to the young generation who prefers to find out shortcuts. During my off days from sports, I was compelled to rejoin athletics by my sports teacher Zafura to utilize my God-gifted talent and skills. I finally decided to try my luck and remained successful from that day onwards.

“First, I appeared in Punjab University games trials that paved my way into the college team. Earning bronze medal in my first competition gave me a lot of heart to continue athletics as a profession. I represented Army in National Games in Lahore and earned bronze medal. This performance helped me book berth in the camp of SAF Games, where I won silver medal in 1500m and bronze medal in 400m relay,” she added.

Lamenting on the current situation when most of the Pakistani athletes were unable to win medals for the country at international level, Sumaira said: “I strongly believe that if things continue in the same direction - as the country has not a sufficient lot of medal winners and athletes have been producing unsatisfactory results - it will be too difficult for the country to win medals in the international events.”

Sumaira hold the unique record of winning every gold medal from 2001 to 2007 in 1500m and also every gold medal from 200m to 10,000m races she had participated from 2001 to 2007.

Disclosing about turning point in her professional career, the athlete said: “When I was at the peak of my career, conspiracy theory cost me dearly, as I was banned for half year for doping, a crime which I had never committed. I want to ask a very simple question from WADA that if they didn’t inform athletes about the rules, then on what grounds, the athletes had to suffer bans. I was broken and just retired in 2009.

“After that, I did Level-I course in Pakistan and opted to be an athletic coach. The latest assignment assigned to me as a coach was training female athletes for South Asian Games. I have tried my best to train the players and hoping that Pakistani athletes will deliver their best in the Games and try to win maximum medals for the country,” the coach said.

She said soon after her return from South Asian Games, she had plan of coaching of six to seven players which she had picked from different schools. “I am sure within six months time, I will be able to take these players for open trials and they will be able to represent the country and win medals for it.”

Sumair suggested that the AFP must send more and more female coaches abroad for the courses as it would not only help in producing female coaches, but would also help female athletes to train and produce quality athletes.