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Military training helps Pakistani shooters reach Rio

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ISLAMABAD: Two members of the small Pakistani contingent participating at the Rio Olympics have the country’s military to thank for much of their training.

Ghulam Mustafa Bashir, a 29-year-old Navy Marine, and Minhal Sohail, a 21-year-old university student, will both compete in shooting events at the Games.

Bashir will participate in the 25-metre rapid fire pistol event for men, while Sohail will compete in the women’s 10-metre air rifle event.

In this photograph taken on May 24, 2016, Pakistani shooter Minhal Sohail lines up a shot as she takes part in a training session at the Pakistan Navy shooting range in Karachi.  When 206 nations march past during the Rio Olympics opening ceremony, a mere seven-athlete team will represent Pakistan -- one fewer than the contingent sent by tiny Atlantic island Bermuda. Despite producing world-class cricketers, hockey players and squash champions in 68 years since independence, Pakistan’s Olympic medal tally is an imperfect 10 -- eight in field hockey and only two individual. / AFP PHOTO / RIZWAN TABASSUM

Both sharp shooters trained with the Pakistan Navy, and Sohail is the daughter of a naval officer.

Sohail got her start in shooting at a Navy summer camp in her hometown of Karachi and has since participated in numerous Asian championships.

Ghulam Mustafa Bashir aims his pistol during a practice session at the Pakistan Navy Shooting Range in Karachi, Pakistan, July 29, 2016. Picture taken July 29, 2016. - Reuters

Ghulam Mustafa Bashir aims his pistol during a practice session at the Pakistan Navy Shooting Range in Karachi, Pakistan, July 29, 2016. Picture taken July 29, 2016. – Reuters

“It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity to take part in Olympics,” she said.

Bashir said he only started competitive marksmanship in 2010 when he joined the Navy team.

“Pakistan Navy is making a great effort to promote shooting in Pakistan. Navy was the first to introduce electronic targets, and since then, we have made great improvement,” Bashir told Reuters as he practised before leaving for Rio.

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The military training is necessary because Pakistan’s government and private sports structure has weakened.

Pakistan’s sporting decline has left the vast South Asian nation that once prided itself on producing the world’s top hockey and squash players facing up to an Olympics for which none of its athletes have qualified.

The seven participants representing the country at the Rio Games have all been given wildcard entries and stand ‘no chance’ of winning medals, according to Arif Hasan, the Pakistan Olympic Association president.

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