Veronica dreams of Olympic glory

“My dream is to win the Olympic gold medal in 2024,” the 18-year-old Veronica Sohail beamed as she talked about her inclusion in the Pakistan Olympic Association’s Athletes’ Commission that held its election on June 10.

Veronica has been the youngest in the family of the female star weightlifters and powerlifters and she still holds the record for being the youngest Pakistani to win a medal for Pakistan back in 2018, when she was barely 14.

Today, almost four years later, the teenage feels her voice can be that of change as being a part of the Athletes’ Commission has been a moment of pride for her and her sisters.

Veronica together with her sisters Twinkle Sohail, Sybil Sohail and Marium Sohail have all won accolades for Pakistan in four different categories at the national, Asian and Pacific/Oceania level events.

It was, in fact, the first time that the siblings gave a 100 percent result on their international participation, each winning medals, in Dubai in 2018.

It all started with Twinkle in 2012. It took her only two years to become the first Pakistani woman to win a gold medal, in fact any medal at the international event.

She made her mark at the Asian Bench Press championships in Muscat, while she also played for the national Kabaddi team and had been a weightlifter too.

Twinkle’s record of winning the medals in 2015, 2017 and 2018 are still unparalleled to this day, while she hopes that the improvement in Pakistan weightlifting should come sooner rather than later, and that is where Twinkle’s role in the athletes’ commission can help.

While Sybil, Marium and Veronica followed Twinkle into the world of weightlifting and powerlifting, Twinkle feel that it is a special moment with the youngest sister’s inclusion in the commission.

“We are all very proud of her. We feel it is a great feat,” Twinkle, 22, told The Express Tribune. “She can help other athletes too with this and the credit really goes to our coach Rashid Malik, because he really helped her find her path.”

Meanwhile, Veronica, who also represented Pakistan at the 2019 South Asian Games, feels that the onus lies in developing the sport.

She made history as the youngest female athlete to compete in international weightlifting event in 2019. She finished fourth on her debut in the South Asian Games after winning gold in the bench-press championships in Dubai along with her sister.

She had also won gold medal in the 2018 Asian Bench Press Championship at only 14 years of age, while keeping her reign in the 47kg to 49kg events in the domestic competitions too.

“I feel so good about the athletes’ commission and being a part of it,” said Veronica, who is among the 12 top players including beach wrestling world champion Inam Butt, Olympians like skier Muhammad Karim, badminton player Mahoor Shahzad in the athletes’ body. “This was the second year, I was named as a part of the POA athletes’ commission initiative. Earlier, I was a part of the forum in 2020. This year we held elections and it feels good because we discussed about what problems weightlifters face in order to train and compete at the international events.

“I just want all the players to come forward and highlight the issues. For us, I feel the challenge is the lack of camps.”

Veronica feels if there was more investment made before she competed in the South Asian Games, she might have won the third place and the medal would have come to Pakistan.

The Lahore-based teenager lifted 55kgs in snatch, whereas 73kgs in clean and jerk in Pokhara, Nepal.

“When I went to the South Asian Games, there were a lot of things missing. Like in Nepal, I could have easily gotten the third place, but we have no camps, no facilities or gyms, weights and equipment at times. So there needs to be a lot that should be provided to the players, and I will be highlighting all these challenges in my capacity,” said Veronica.

She is training with her sisters and mentor Malik in Lahore diligently. They only take offs for Christmas holiday or on Eid and remain on the go around the year to be available and capable to win more medals for Pakistan.

Their next target can be the South Asian Games, but Veronica is aiming for Olympics now.

“The dream is of course for the 2024 Games in Paris,” she added, and there is no stone that the sisters are leaving unturned to prepare for the bigger events in the future.

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