LAHORE-Pakistan No 1 badminton player Mahoor Shahzad has said that if provided with international-standard facilities and coaching, she is confident enough to be among top 50 players in the world.

Mahoor has been national badminton champion for the last four years while he has also achieved great feats at international level. In an interview with The Nation, Mahoor said: “My current ranking is 133 in the world, so for now, my aim is to be among top 50 players of the world. Once I have achieved that then I will aim to be among top 20 players of the world, then I will be eyeing place in top 10 and top 5. I want to earn this feat gradually instead of setting an unrealistic aim.

“I train for approximately 6 to 7 hours a day, which includes two sessions a day - one in the morning and one evening session. I take off only on Sunday. I believe the reason behind my success is that I am regular in my trainings. Even though if I am not feeling well on someday, yet I still go to the court and do only skill (playing the shots while standing) with the belief that something is better than nothing and so I prefer not skip a single day. I have learnt this thing from my father, who himself is a sportsperson besides being a businessman. He still manages to do his training even if he comes to home at 11 pm and this inspires me a lot.”

Replying to a query regarding contributions of Pakistan Badminton Federation (PBF) towards the game, the national champion said: “Ever since Wajid Ali has taken over the federation as general secretary, we can see that there have been numerous improvements. It’s due to him that Pakistan International Series took place in 2017 after a gap of more than 10 years and now has been taking place every year after that. The national championships are also being conducted regularly every year along with 3 to 4 ranking tournaments in a year, which is a good number of local tournaments for any country. Not only this, during the national championship 2020, it was also announced that the PBF will be organizing 3 to 4 junior ranking tournaments every year.

“Wajid Ali has played an important role in my success as well. In 2017, he selected only me out of all male and female badminton players in the country for the training camp of Asian Olympic Project 2020, which was held in Malaysia as he saw the potential in me. The AOP is a development program of Badminton Asia in which 20 players from across the developing countries of Asia are selected and are provided with training opportunities and competition scholarships. Fortunately, I got selected in that and till now I am a part of it, which makes me the first and the only Pakistani badminton player to get selected thrice in the Asian Olympic Project 2020,” she added.

“Not only this, Wajid Ali announced a cash prize of Rs 100,000 for me when I clinched gold medal in Pakistan International Series 2019. I was the only Pakistani player to achieve a medal in that tournament. I expect the federation to send me abroad for training on a fully-funded scholarship considering that I am the number one in Pakistan since four years and I have the potential to win medals for Pakistan at international level. I also want them to exempt me from trials of South Asian Games, Asian Games and Commonwealth Games or any other international event. Last time, I still had to give trials for South Asian Games 2019 when I was in a phase of recovering from my ankle injury, so I really want them to consider this request,” Mahoor asserted.

When asked about the main hurdles she has been facing to win world titles, Mahoor said: “The biggest challenge, I have to face, is lack of international-standard coaching and training facilities in Karachi. Due to this, I have to design my own training plan with the help of my father, like what to do in court, training, gym, running etc. Not only this, I watch my match videos and training videos along with my father to discuss my weakness with him and then we devise ways to overcome those weaknesses. There is no badminton academy in Pakistan, so opening one will surely help overcome this challenge.

“The other reason is that we don’t have sponsorships in badminton due to which we can’t participate much in international tournaments compared to foreign players. The more we play tournaments, the better our world ranking will be and the higher international exposure we will have that will help us win more laurels for the country at international level. So, big companies should come forward to sponsor genuine talent and top ranked players, who are capable of winning glories for the country. I would like to mention here that, my world ranking is 133, however, the girl from Iran whom I beat in the Pakistan International Series 2019 final, was ranked 100 in the world. And that’s only because she has played more international tournaments than me,” she added.

When asked if Pakistan has no dearth of talent, then why it is unable to produce world champions in badminton, the national badminton champion said: “There is not a single badminton academy in Pakistan. In order to perform at the international level, we need to do the same level of training that the top players of the world are doing. Camps should be held where international coaches along with the country’s best ones should train the players. Not only this, Pakistani coaches should be sent abroad for coaching courses. We have talent but we don’t have access to good training facilities.”

Mahoor revealed that her ideal female badminton player is Tai Tzu Ying of Chinese Taipei male player is Kento Momota of Japan. “Performing well in both sports and studies requires good time management skills. And that can only happen when a person learns to restrain himself/herself from wasting time. In order to be someone, who people look up to, a lot of sacrifices have to be made. You will have to miss many gatherings, parties, events for your training. Moreover, the use of social media has to be limited. “India’s PV Sindhu, who won silver medal in Rio Olympics 2016, didn’t use her mobile for three months before Olympics just to realize every time that she is preparing for something big. The most important thing is a person’s self determination and the will power to be the best, as these two things determine how much willing a person is to put efforts in achieving his/her aims,” she concluded.