A former GB athlete and founder and director of Athletes in School and AIS Athletics, Umar Hameed, is set to represent Pakistan at an international athletic championship next week.
Born in Halifax and living in Leeds for most of his early career, Mr Hameed was set to compete in the 2012 London Olympics when an injury prevented him to compete, despite qualifying to represent Pakistan. In 2009, he achieved his highest British ranking as first in the 150m indoors.
The World Indoor Athletic Championships will be the first competition for Mr Hammed since 2018, when he ruptured his Achilles heel that put him out of action and on crutches for a year and a half.
After graduating from university and in his recovery phase after Team GB, Mr Hameed launched Athletes in Schools (AIS) and AIS Athletics. AIS organises inspirational visits from the UK’s Olympic and Paralympic heroes to educate, motivate and integrate children from all backgrounds in the hopes of improving both their physical and mental health.
AIS Athletics is an athletic academy that operates in the United Arab Emirates and the UK and is a leading provider of track and field athletics provision for young athletes of all ages and abilities.
The company boasts that it is “currently improving the track and field athletics culture in the UAE, through the development and implementation of a ‘Grassroots to Greatness’ strategy within the education sector.”
Mr Hameed qualified for the championships despite recently contracting Covid-19 twice.
Mr Hameed said: “I’m very excited to be representing Pakistan. I am born in the UK and lived in the UK my whole life, but Pakistan is my home country. I am very proud to represent the country – it is a decision I made a long time ago.
“I have not had the best preparation; I have just recovered from my second round of Covid-19, but I think a lot of people are in the same boat. I am excited to get out there and compete.”
He added: “There are many talented British Pakistanis that have the opportunity to represent Pakistan, but they don’t have the know-how. It is important to me that moving forward, I can open doors for young athletes coming up.
“The process to represent Pakistan is not a difficult process, you need parents who were born there, and you need to go there and have a passport.
“The unfortunate thing is that as a British Pakistani, you are not seen as fully British and in Pakistan, you are not seen as Pakistani. You often sit in the middle ground. After speaking to my parents, I decided I want to represent the country, I wanted to feel the culture, the heritage, the traditions, and the religion, which is why I made the decision to represent Pakistan.”
Marc Wilson, a life-long friend of Mr Hammed and an NHS pharmacist, said: “We have a phenomenal history of sporting achievement in our great county, and next week we can add the name of Umar Hameed, born and bred in Morley to that illustrious list.
“Umar was, for a long time the fastest person of South-Asian descent to ever run for team GB. However, a series of injuries curtailed his progression and ended his dreams of sprinting in the London Olympics in 2012 despite qualifying for the games to represent Pakistan.
“Ten years, several surgeries and a lot of physiotherapies later, Umar will be representing Pakistan in the World Indoor Athletics Championships next week.”
The pharmacist added: “Umar’s heritage speaks volumes of the cosmopolitan beauty of a modern Yorkshire. He is a proud Englishman, a proud Pakistani and an even prouder Yorkshireman.”
The heats for the championships begin on Friday 18 March and will be available to watch live on the BBC or the BBC’s online streaming service.