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Sisters doing it for themselves

They may not feature in the final medals shake-up at the Asian Games, but a group of women athletes are determined to make their mark.

india Updated: Sep 27, 2002 13:00 IST

They may not feature in the final medals shake-up at the Asian Games, but a group of women athletes are determined to make their mark between now and the end of the competition on October 14.

In the 23-member Afghanistan team, returning to international competition after a gap of six years, all eyes will be on the three-women taekwondo team whose scheduled appearance has already sparked controversy in their deeply conservative country.

Women were banned from playing any kind of sport under the hardline Taliban regime but Hakima Khashai, Roya Zamani, and Fatima Hamadi have spent much of the last five years training in neighbouring Iran.

Ismail Khan, the powerful governor of Afghanistan's western Herat province, criticised the decision to send the women to South Korea as a breach of the teachings of the Koran.

"It is a shame and far from Afghanistan's tradition to send women to participate in some world-wide game. Such things destroy the principles of 23 years of holy war," Khan said earlier this month.

Seven women shooters from the Gulf state of Qatar are also creating a first for their country as they become the first females from their tiny Muslim state to be allowed to take part.

The appearance of the seven is significant since Qatar is due to host the next edition of the Asian Games in 2006.

"The shooters have been performing very well. They are training regularly and improving their personal scores all the time," said Dr Anisa al-Hitmi, the head of the Qatar Women's Sports Committee.

Hussa al-Assery, Baheea Khamees, Bano Hejazi, Mona al-Hugaily, Laila Hussain, Sabika al-Muhannadi and Matra al-Assery make up the team with the authorities having already started training girls in gymnastics, handball, volleyball, table tennis, taekwondo and karate.

Dr al-Hitmi added that the target of the Qatar Women's Sports Committee was to increase the representation of women in all sports-related fields to about 40% by the time the 2006 Asiad is held in Doha.

Fencer Mira Khalil Mansour is to make history as the first Palestinian woman to compete at the Asian Games.

Mansour said that she wanted to portray "a modern image of the Palestinian woman" at the event.

"I'm hoping to obtain the best possible result," said Mira.

Pakistan's sportswomen have also vowed to make their mark as the country sends it biggest ever contingent to Busan.

"This is the first time that a large number of women are going to the Asian Games and we are determined that with each opportunity we will improve," said swimmer Sana Wahid.

Apart from her, women swimmers Kiran Khan, Ayesha Tajwar, Mahira Karim and Mehrunnisa Khan will compete in the Asiad.

Sportswomen Nazish Khan, Urooj Fatima and Nida Saeed will get a rare chance in the shooting.

"I have been performing well for the last four years in air rifle events and this will be my first chance to compete outside Pakistan," said Nazish, 26, a national record holder.

Sumera Khan will be the lone woman athlete while Andre Yasmeen will feature in Optimist sailing.

First Published: Sep 27, 2002 13:00 IST