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Old 24-02-2010, 05:00 PM
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Announce Pakistan Another Hidden Victory


Ski is the limit for Pakistan’s Winter Olympian

Muhammad Abbas has come a long way from the days when he and his friends would strap rough wooden planks to their legs with nylon rope and go skiing. On Tuesday, the 24-year-old will become the first Pakistani to compete at a Winter Olympics when he starts in the giant slalom.

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The story began in 1996 when his coach, Zahid Farooq was posted to Naltar, near the town of Gilgit in the foothills of the Karakoram mountains, as a survival trainer. Abbas has also been assisted by the Pakistan Air Force contributing from their welfare fund. “Abbas started skiing on home-made wooden skis,” his coach Zahid Farooq recalls.

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Farooq rounded up more funds, enough to send his star pupil, along with seven other kids, to Austria in 2009 to work with some professional coaches. It was an intensive six-week training session, a crash course in the slalom.

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With proper training, Abbas began to make great strides. He even finished eighth in a lower-tier race in Lebanon last March, his only top-10 finish at a FIS-sanctioned competition.

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Farooq has plans to add a female skier to the team for Sochi: “By the grace of God, we will by 2014,” he said. “And I hope to have some Nordic skiers as well.”

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Abbas tries on a cap at a shop in the athlete’s village in Vancouver.

“They don’t have much resources to buy equipment so this was their pastime, what they did in their free time. “They would chop off some wood and chisel it, make it into thin bits to look like a true ski and they would tie it to their feet with rubber or with nylon rope.

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For Abbas, this experience is hardly a joke. He’s not a medal threat, he won’t wind up at the top of the leader-board, but it’s not about that. His ambitions are to soak up the moment and gain a few helpful hints to bring back to his tiny slope and inspire others.

Abbas hoists Pakistan's flag at Vancouver


Leading the charge of the not-so-well-known brigade at the Winter Olympics in Vancouver was Muhammad Abbas, the 24-year-old from Gilgit-Baltistan in northern Pakistan, who began his ski adventure by strapping two pine planks onto rubber boots. Now, here he was in the spotlight -- at least for the 3min, 20.58sec overall time it took him to complete the course in his two runs. It might have left him in 79th place but Abbas didn't care about that, as he proved that participation is what it's all about. “I am very happy. Pakistan is for the first time in the Winter Olympics. To be the first—I was so much bursting with emotion that I wanted to shout at the top of my lungs, ‘Pakistan Zindabad!’ [Long live Pakistan!]”” he beamed -- and not a cricket ball in sight.

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Muhammad Abbas, of Pakistan, competes in the first run of the men's giant slalom in Whistler, British Columbia.

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Pakistan's Muhammad Abbas passes a gate during the first run of the Men's giant slalom, at the Vancouver 2010 Olympics in Whistler, British Columbia.

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Pakistan's Muhammad Abbas takes a curve during the first run.

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Muhammad Abbas, of Pakistan, competes in the first run.

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Pakistan's Muhammad Abbas clears a gate during the first run.

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Pakistan's Muhammad Abbas clears a gate.

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Pakistan's Muhammad Abbas clears a gate.

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Pakistan's Muhammad Abbas reacts in the finish area after his first run.

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Pakistan's Muhammad Abbas crosses the finish line to complete the first run.

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Pakistan's Muhammad Abbas reacts in the finish area during the first run.

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Pakistan's Muhammad Abbas reacts after finishing the second run.

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Pakistan's Muhammad Abbas reacts after finishing the second run of the Men's giant slalom at the Vancouver 2010 Olympics.
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