Iranian judo coach focussing on fitness

Alam Zeb Safi
Sunday, Jun 05, 2022

KARACHI: Pakistan’s Iranian judo coach Sajjad Kazmi is emphasising on the development of the physical conditioning, mental strength and skills of his charges undergoing training in Abbottabad for the Commonwealth Games and Islamic Games.

"Yes these areas are extremely important and we are focusing on them," Sajjad told ’The News’ on Saturday.

"You know I have come here after six long years and it is a huge gap. I will definitely need some more time to develop my fighters physically, mentally and technically," Sajjad said.

"Pakistan Judo Federation (PJF) is assisting us well in the provision of top-quality food to the fighters. And currently we are giving an Olympics-level diet to the fighters who are aiming to feature in the back-to-back international events in the coming months," he said.

Sajjad, who hails from Bandar Anzali, had joined Pakistan’s camp in the middle of last month. This is his second stint as Pakistan’s coach. Earlier, he had served the nation as a coach from 2012-2016.

The Commonwealth Games medal prospect Qaiser Afridi is also training under Sajjad. Qaiser, who has to his credit three bronze and a silver medal in Asia at the junior level, had been trained by Sajjad when he was just a raw talent six years ago. Now he has transformed into a gutsy fighter and is rated as a medal prospect for the country in the Commonwealth Games pencilled in for July 28 to August 8 in Birmingham.

"Qaiser is a good fighter but he is physically a bit weak and we are working on him," said Sajjad, who is Black Belt 6 Dan.

It will be a huge boost to Pakistan if Qaiser too is able to strike in Birmingham, an event in which Pakistan will be fielding two fighters. The other is Tokyo-based Shah Hussain who has the experience of playing in two back-to-back Olympics, in 2016 in Rio and 2021 in Tokyo.

Shah had lifted the silver medal in the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games which was the first-ever medal in Pakistan’s judo history in the quadrennial event. In the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games judo was not included.

Qaiser is happy that he has got his coach back which he wanted the most. "It’s great to have Sajjad back as my coach as he had trained me well in the past also. He is really a good coach and is working really hard," Qaiser told this correspondent.

"He is working on a specific pattern and we are responding well to his training. If we continue to progress in the same way then I am hopeful I will be able to get a medal in Birmingham," he said.

Qaiser will appear in the Commonwealth Games in -100 kg, the weight category in which previously Shah Hussain played in the international circuit. Qaiser had to go to the -100kg from -90kg after Shah opted to go down to the -90kg from -100kg.

Qaiser had last year appeared in -100kg in the Asia-Oceania Junior Championship in Lebanon in which he was able to get a bronze medal. And he is happy with this weight. "Yes I am happy as I am just 21-year old and my body gets top power in this weight. I hope it will help me in my career," said Qaiser, who belongs to the Qamber Khel tribe of Bara located in Khyber district, KP.

With Shah, training in Tokyo, and aiming to skip the Grand Slams in Mongolia and Hungary in near future, Qaiser targets these twin assignments to test himself before the mega events.

"Yes I am aiming to show my mettle in these two events before going to Birmingham which is my top target," Qaiser said.

"I am working on a plan given to me by my coach Sajjad and am putting in my best to make a solid preparation for the coming events," he said. The Islamic Games will be hosted by Turkey in Konya, from August 9-18. PJF wants to field around six fighters in the Islamic Games.