“It’s a dream come true for me and I want to be a role model — not only for disabled people in my country but also for the able-bodied who lose courage,” said Baig, whose right leg was left shorter than his left by polio in childhood.
The 33-year-old post office clerk who thought life was over when he couldn’t run as fast as the other boys growing up, is one of four athletes representing Pakistan at the London Paralympics from August 29 to September 9.
He will compete in the 200 and 400m, hoping to replicate the success of Pakistan’s first paralympian, long jumper Haidar Ali, who won silver in Beijing in 2008.
“I always wanted to run like the other boys but my disability hindered that. I made a promise to myself that one day I will run and win, and that day will come during the London Paralympics,” he said.
Ali heads the Pakistani contingent. Aneela Beg will compete in women’s 100m and shot-put, and Mohammad Naeem in the 800 and 1,500m.
Baig won silver in the 400m at the Asian Games in Doha in 2006, but London will be his first Olympics as a competitor.
He represented Pakistan in Beijing as an official after not being selected to compete — a disappointment he doesn’t want to discuss.
Born and brought up in Faisalabad, Baig struggled for years after contracting polio.
He finished school and went to university, completing a Bachelor’s degree that enabled him to get a job as a clerk in the Faisalabad post office.
But the track was always his first love.
“I trained and trained hard because I knew that if I want to achieve the goal of representing Pakistan and become a role model I have to work hard,” said Baig, who started at club and regional level.
His first international chance came in the 2006 Asian Games.
“That silver medal made me realise that nothing is impossible in life,” said Baig, “Haider’s success in the last Paralympics was a further motivation and now I want to win my own medal,” (AFP)