Zero, zero, zero. That’s not some international dialling code, but the number of gold, silver and bronze medals won by Pakistan since 1992. If the team sport of hockey is left aside, where Pakistan has won eight of its ten medals, the country has won only two individual medals in the Olympics to date, both bronze medals-one in wrestling in Rome 1960 and one in boxing in Seoul 1988. For a country of over 200 million people, these numbers paint a harrowing picture. At the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, Arshad Nadeem made history by becoming the first-ever Pakistani athlete to qualify for a track and field final at the Olympics. The other high point came in the weightlifting category when Talha Talib topped the table for a short while but ended up fifth in the final result. Both athletes thrilled the nation starved of witnessing sporting glory at the Olympics. Expectedly, they were showered with praise from all sides and heartfelt messages poured in from Pakistani celebrities and sportsmen alike, wishing them luck. Upon his arrival back home, Nadeem was given a hero’s welcome after finishing fifth in the men’s javelin throw event at the Tokyo Olympics. Video footage from outside the Lahore airport showed an emotional Nadeem greeting his mother and falling to his knees as fans and family showered him with rose petals and praise. Later, in his hometown of Mian Channu, Nadeem was welcomed by a crowd of admirers chanting his name alongside slogans of “Pakistan Zindabad”. The Punjab government had also announced cash rewards of Rs1 million for Nadeem, Talib and mountaineer Shehroz Kashif for their recent stellar performances at the global level. These gimmicks happen every time an athlete comes close to doing something remarkable at a major event. What never happens, however, is support and encouragement for the athletes before they undertake their sporting journey. More often than not, they are left to fend for themselves in terms of training and finances. In an interview with a private news channel, Nadeem’s father Muhammad Ashraf had said that his son did not even have a ground to practice in. The report went on to add that Nadeem trained in his own house’s courtyard and the streets while money for fitness machines was provided by his father. The question on everyone’s mind is why does Pakistan’s Olympics Association continue to fail these athletes? Why the Pakistan Sports Board, the state-owned institution which governs sports in the country, had returned nearly Rs440 million to the government in the fiscal year without utilising them for sports and athletics? Even a war-wrecked country like Syria that can barely provide bread to its people after a decade long civil war managed to win a bronze medal in the sport of weightlifting. Kosovo, which only declared independence in 2008 mind you, managed to win not one but two gold medals in judo at the Tokyo Olympics. San Marino-a tiny nation smaller than Multan-won three medals: a silver and bronze in shooting and one more bronze in wrestling. It was raw talent and sheer determination that brought Nadeem closer to Olympic glory. But raw talent alone is simply not enough when you are competing with some of the best athletes in the world. Talha and Nadeem do prove however that Pakistan has what it takes to achieve success in international sports if only it could pull up its socks and learn from the miserable experience of the Tokyo Olympics.