ISLAMABAD  -   UAE-based Pakistani taekwondo athlete Sinan Ashfaq has added another feather in his decorated cap by winning silver medal in the Sofia Open Taekwondo Championship 2019, held in Bulgaria.

Talking to The Nation from UAE on Monday, Sinan said: “It is my fourth medal for Pakistan in four months this year. I always tried to give my best for Pakistan, as despite living in UAE, my heart beats for my country. I won semifinal with a big margin of 18 points beating Theocharis Papapanagiotou of Greece in plus 65 weight category in the cadet division.”

The Pak athlete said: “The audience was highly surprised with my skills against a very strong opponent. They were not expecting me to stand even outside chance of doing well against a reputed and experienced lad, but thanks to my trainers and my father especially, who always stand like a rock behind me and bear all my expenditures to ensure my presence in world events. I played well and not only shocked Theocharis, but also the entire crowd.

“Unfortunately, I narrowly missed against Dimitrije Ajdukovic from Serbia in the final after giving tough time to my opponent despite I was carrying foot injury. It was highly close and competitive final and went right down to the wire, before my foot swelling badly and I have left with no option but to quit. Although I lost, yet trust me, the entire arena erupted and gave me standing ovation. They appreciated my fighting skills as well as my determination to fight despite getting injured,” he added.

Sinan said his winning spree continues this year, as he won silver medal in Belgium Open in March, gold medal in UAE National Championship in Sharjah in February and a gold medal in Fujairah International Championship in January this year. “I am first Pakistani player in the cadet category to win medals in Europe. My next target is to win medals in Asian Cadet Taekwondo World Cup in Jordan in July and Cadet Taekwondo World Cup in Tashkent in August this year.”

The 13-year-old Sharjah boy had opened his account with a bronze for Pakistan at the President’s World Taekwondo Championship held in Tashkent in August 2017. Sinan is also a high performing student at the North American International School (NAIS) in Dubai. “I am happy with my performance but also sad for not winning gold for my country. I will work even harder to win medals for Pakistan in the upcoming events,” he said and dedicated his medal to Prime Minister Imran Khan.

Sinan trains at the Sharjah Sport Club with coach Hatim and is younger brother of Ammar Ashfaq Ahmed, who represented Pakistan at the Junior World Cup last year and also played a number of other international events.

Sinan’s coach Abdullah Hatim, who is UAE national team coach and Technical Director at Sharjah Sports Club, commended his student’s performance considering that it was a G1 event with participation of more than 900 athletes from over 40 countries. “Sinan is a rising star and he can bring great honours for his country, if he continues to work hard.”

Sinan’s Pakistani coach Nadir Khan said he has potential to win the Cadet World Cup this year. “We are very happy with his performance and hope that he will continue to work hard and one day, we will see him in Olympics.”