Weightlifter Talha Talib on Sunday missed out on a rare Olympic medal for Pakistan but turned plenty of heads as Pakistan finally took notice of him.
The 21-year-old lifter from Gujranwala, making his Olympics debut, took part in the 67kg category and held the gold medal spot until the final round before eventually being bumped down and denied a podium finish.
In the end, he finished fifth as China’s Lijun Chen, Colombia’ Luis Javier Mosquera Lozano and Italy’s Mirko Zani captured gold, silver and bronze respectively.
Talib’s lift of 151kg in Snatch category was the second-best of the round. He failed in his first Clean & Jerk attempt of 166kg and even though he was successful for the same weight in his next attempt and also cleared 170kg later, his combined total of 320 was surpassed by others, including Zani, who lifted just 2kg more than Talib.
For a little while during Clean & Jerk, he was in the lead, giving his growing number of fans back home a glimmer of hope. Nonetheless, Talib’s performance despite an obvious lack of resources turned him a hero as Twitterati showered him with praises and his name became the top Pakistani trend on the site.
Pakistan cricket team allrounder Shadab Khan said “Pakistan is proud of Talha Talib” as he urged “sponsors and sports administration to help athletes like Talha”.
Pakistan Women’s team member Javeria Khan said: “Win or lose, you have already made Pakistan proud.”
Journalist Mehr Tarar let Talib know that “Pakistan is rooting for you.”
Pakistan Super League franchise Islamabad United’s General Manager Rehanul Haq shared an interesting bit about Talib.
TV anchor Gharidah Farooqi said that Talib’s fifth-place finish was “no small feat given how this sports is neglected in Pakistan as compared to cricket”.
Sports reporter Faizan Lakhani explained how Talib’s journey was an against-the-odds story as “Talha wasn’t provided any special training programme even after his qualification.”
Vetaran journalist Aalia Rasheed spoke for everyone as she tweeted: “Still proud of you Talha Talib!”
Test cricketer Azhar Ali said that Talib’s performance “shows that if we invest more time and money into our athletes, they can do wonders”.
Talib’s journey to Tokyo Olympics was made possible after the International Olympic Committee accepted a request from the Pakistan Olympic Association (POA) and offered the young lifter an invitation place in -67kgs category.
He has clinched medals in Commonwealth (bronze), South Asian Games (gold) and International Solidarity Weightlifting Championship (gold), according to POA.