He comes from a family of traditional wrestlers and has made his mark in international competitions for his country. Wrestling is a lifestyle for him because his daily routine completely revolves around the sport.
Muhammad Inam Butt hails from Gujranwala, a city in the Punjab province of Pakistan. The city is rightly called the city of wrestlers as it has produced numerous wrestlers who won laurels for their country at different international platforms.
Thirty-year-old Inam recently won the gold medal during the ANOC World Beach Games held at Katara Beach in the category of 90 kilogram. He defeated Georgia’s Dato Marsagishvili 5-2. He also currently reigns as Rustam-i-Pakistan, the biggest title of traditional wrestling in the country that is very special for him.
“My grandfather Ghulam Muhammad was a wrestler. My father Muhammad Safdar Butt was also a professional wrestler. Likewise, the elder brother of my father was also a wrestler. They, however, could not make much name for themselves outside Pakistan as the competition within the country was very tough in the traditional wrestling”, said Inam while talking to Community the day after he won the gold medal during his visit to Souq Waqif.
Wrestling came naturally to the gold medallist. It was mandatory sport played in his family. “Whenever some of us (cousins) gathered in a house, our elders would always ask us to wrestle with each other. We were not allowed to play any another sports but wrestling. I actually inherited wrestling.”
The talented athlete started his professional career when he was in 8th grade in the school. “It was in 2002 when my father took me to the wrestling arena for the first time. I started getting proper training. I would get up for morning [fajr] prayer and do my exercise before I left for school. In the evening, I had to undergo training at a proper wrestling arena.”
Initially Inam did not have much deep interest in wrestling as he was doing it as part of his family tradition. It was in 2003 that he took part in Pakistan championship under-16 category and won the event. “It was my first professional victory. I received a lot of praise and recognition. The medal really boosted me up. I became the under-16 champion for two times. I remained the three times national champion in under-20 category. This got me into senior category of professional wrestling.”
Inam’s first international event was the Commonwealth Games 2010 in India. “I made history for Pakistan. After 40 years a Pakistani wrestler won gold for his country. In 2016, I won gold during South Asian Games in India. In 2014, I won bronze medal during Asian Beach Games. In 2016, I won silver medal during Commonwealth Championship.”
As his international career moved forward, Inam started dreaming of becoming a world champion. “During the 2017 World Wrestling Championship in Turkey, I won a gold medal. It was the first gold medal for Pakistan in the history of the championship. In 2018 Commonwealth Games in Australia, I won the only gold medal for my country. I am the only Pakistani athlete who has won gold two times during the games. In 2018 again I defended my title during World Wrestling Championship. There were four other champions in different categories who failed to defend their titles. It was a proud moment for me.”
Inam got very excited when he spoke about his successes at national competitions in Pakistan. “In Pakistan, there is a tradition that you have to go through the national wrestling competitions no matter how successful you are at the international level. In 2018, I won the title of Sher-i-Pakistan [Lion of Pakistan] title. Rustom-i-Pakistan is the biggest title in the traditional wrestling. The competitions have no weight category. I competed in eight matches. In the final round I defeated a known wrestler Hamid Khan in March 2019. His weight was 125kg and my weight was about 95kg.”
Inam has also won many awards in Pakistan. He was honoured with sportsman of the year award in 2019. Same year, he was also given the Pride of Performance award by the President of Pakistan.
The champion wrestler had to face a knee injury just three months before the Beach Games in Qatar. “I had to undergo a surgery and had only six weeks to recover and train for the games. I am really thankful to Professor Dr Amir Aziz, a known orthopaedic, at Ghurki Teaching Hospital in Lahore.”
Inam says wrestling is everything for him. “For me wrestling is a life style. My diet, my sleep, and my daily routine are all associated with wrestling. I have to keep in mind wrestling when I eat and sleep. My life cycle revolves around wrestling.”
The talented athlete does not see much difference in beach wrestling and his traditional soil wrestling. “Beach wrestling is easier for us because we practise on the soil for the traditional wrestling. Both are very similar. I have my base in soil wrestling and it helps me in beach competitions. I also do training on sand regularly.”
Inam is also a professional wrestling trainer. He runs an academy in Gujranwala. “In 2017 when I became world champion for the first time, then Punjab’s minister of sports provided me a piece of land to run my academy. I have been training about 70 to 80 boys. Some of my students have started going for international competitions alongside me. I do not charge fee and provide free of cost training to the interested athletes.”
The athlete continued his studies along with his sport activities. He is an MBA and carries a university degree in Sport Sciences. “I have realised that we in Pakistan are far behind in learning new techniques and fitness levels when it comes to wrestling. I started studying sport science to learn more about the sport of wrestling. I have learnt the advanced practices of diet, exercise and wrestling techniques. The knowledge has improved my skills and performance.”
Inam is very upbeat about the future of wrestling in Pakistan. “The overall future of the sports depends on how much priority the government gives to it. There is huge talent in Pakistan. We need to reset our priorities.
“If we get more support, Pakistan can earn maximum gold medals in international wrestling competitions. It is the one sport that has brought maximum medals to the country. In last five years, Pakistan has got over 70 medals in wrestling.”
The athlete is all praise for Qatar and the expatriate Pakistani community for extending him their support during the competitions. “I never felt I am competing outside Pakistan. There was a huge support from the community. The Pakistani spectators really cheered me up and it improved my performance.”
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