Saadi Abbas believes Pakistani karatekas have given the country their ‘Independence Day gift’ as the team wrapped up the South Asian Championship with six gold, eight silver and 11 bronze medals in Colombo, Sri Lanka.

Abbas, who also won a silver medal at the Islamic Solidarity Games in May, believes that this has been Pakistan’s best show at the South Asian Championship to date.

He further admitted that the level of competition has improved in the region and the tournament was not an easy one to win.

Black belts and empty pockets

“This is the best we have done, and I hope the nation accepts this as the Independence Day gift from us,” Abbas told The Express Tribune from Colombo. “The level of competition has improved as India has become better than us in many ways. Also, Sri Lanka is working very hard on developing the sport as they had involved many school children in the event, and they are trying to make karate a compulsory sport in their education institutions; so we have some big competition to face in the future.”

Abbas, then commenting on his individual performance, said that he faced a tough opponent in the final. “For me it wasn’t easy,” he said. “My final was with a Sri Lankan player and we had a tough fight. In fact, we could’ve won eight gold medals, but then it’s the refereeing and other things, so we all fought well, and undoubtedly this has been the best show from Pakistan in South Asian Championship. I hope Pakistanis can now appreciate the effort and promote karate on different levels.”

Resources limited, competition tough, but karatekas confident

The discovery of the championship was Lyari’s 16-year-old Shahbaz Khan who won the gold medal in the boys’ juniors -61kg event to impress Abbas.

“Shahbaz impressed everyone including me. He is from Lyari like I am and he plays for the same club. It was heartening to see him win gold in juniors’ category.”

Meanwhile, Kulsoom Hazara ended up winning the gold medal in -64kg event as she completed her hat-trick at the South Asian Championship. “I’m just glad that I’ve won this event for three years straight,” said Hazara.

Pakistan men’s and women’s team also won bronze medals in kata event, while Baz Mohammad took the gold medal in the +84kg men’s event. Naseer Ahmed bagged a gold medal in –67kg competition, while Nargis Hazara also won a gold medal in -64kg U21 event.

Besides Pakistan, hosts Sri Lanka, India, Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan were participating on the championship.