Pakistan’s Paltry Olympic Team Reflects a Decaying Legacy


Neelam Riaz, left, training with Iqra Chanzaib, who chose weight lifting after her brothers objected to basketball.

Caren Firouz/Reuters

LAHORE, Pakistan — A decline in support for sports has left Pakistan, which once prided itself on producing the world’s best field hockey and squash players, facing an Olympics in which only a handful of its athletes will compete as wild-card entries.

While cricket remains a wildly popular game in Pakistan, a South Asian nation of almost 200 million people, most other sports have shrunk in popularity as the successes of the 1980s and early 1990s have become a distant memory.

In dilapidated gyms and on crumbling sports fields, Pakistani athletes lament the dated equipment and obsolete training methods that leave them struggling against foreign opponents who use the latest training techniques.

Female athletes have an even bigger mountain to climb: Most young girls in Pakistan, a deeply conservative Muslim nation, are pressured by their families to stop exercising in public, while those whose families support them still face the…

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