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Has Pakistan found its new Champion?

Abdul Mohi Shah reports form Islamabad

Aamir Atlas - the newest sensation

on Pakistan squash horizon
From Abdul Mohi Shah

ISLAMABAD: The young Aamir Atlas Khan may be the answer to long-standing question the country sports faces-who would be the worthy successor of great Jahangir and Jansher Khan? And when Pakistan would start ruling the world of squash again?

The young 14 year and 8 months old, the next in line in Khan family stunned world No 35 M. Essam A Hafiz of Egypt in the pre-quarter finals on COAS Open on Tuesday and just fell short of springing another surprise on Wednesday against the top seed Adrian Grant for a place in the semis.

In two years time following his entry into the competitive squash, Aamir has made enough impression that could project him as one and possibly the only contender in present lot to whom the nation could look for squash glory in not a distant future. " My eyes are definitely on the World title in two to three years time. But my immediate target is to win the World Junior Championship to be held in New Zealand in a year time," is what AamirÕs future aim is.

Borne on July 30, 1990 in Peshawar, Aamir is a student of 9th class in Muslim Public School and a son of former international Atlas Khan. Altas who played the final of British Amateur Squash is the elder brother of former champion Jansher Khan. He also won no less then 20 international tournaments, but Altlas would be remembered more for his contribution in training and early guidance to his younger brother Jansher.

So the passion for the game very much runs in the family. It would not be an exaggeration to say that Aamir inherited the love for game. " I took the squash racket when I was just 7-year old. My father who has great love for the game started working on my techniques from the very start. In my early age, he was my only coach. Slowly I increased the timing of my practice and training and when I reached 11, I used to give six to seven hours daily to my training," Aamir said in an exclusive talk with The News, an hour after his match with world No 15, Adrian Grant.

It was in 2003 that he started playing competitive squash and AamirÕs first assignment was the British Junior Championship. " The Under-13 title at the Championship was my first ever international crown and that gave me a big push. The title make me realise that I am capable of playing the junior championship," Aamir said.

The young Khan went on to land his maiden title a year after playing junior championship. During the course of play, he also scooped up the Milo International in Malaysia. " The title in Malaysia gave me more courage as a few month later I have to play the World Junior Championship in Islamabad," he said.

Though not selected as a Pakistan team member for the Team Championship, Aamir went on to reach the semis of the individual event and only lost to ultimate champion. At the beginning of 2005, Aamir led Pakistan campaign in the Asian Junior Championship in India. " I beat the last year British Squash Championship under-19 winner Sourav Ghosal in the final."

Aamir said his game has improved considerably mainly due to the senior camp organized by the Pakistan Squash Federation (PSF) in Peshawar. " I regularly played against the best of Pakistan players like Amjad Khan, Farrukh Zaman, Naveed and Safeerullah. Playing against these players each day out has improved my game considerably," Aamir said.

He said that such a long camp should always be organized near to the place where most of these players study or do the job. " Ever since Jamshaid Gul has started training me, my game has improved and I feel I am now capable of playing against the best in the world," he said.

Aamir said he wanted to be in the national team for the World Team Championship to be held in Islamabad in December. " Now my aim is to play regularly in $ 12000 to $ 15000 prize money tournaments and want to improve my ranking by wining these. Now I want to be a regular member of the Pakistan national team.

"What I lack is international experience and that is what I am after," he said.



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