Interview: Pinning up Olympic memories

Sports Medicine expert Dr Mahmood Shehabullah tells Anuroop Athiparambath that most of the Omani players lack proper fitness routine to prevent the injuries.

Muscat, Oct 13 – Oman needs a major overhaul in terms of the fitness levels of the athletes if the Sultanate really wants to become a sporting power in near future, according to a sports medicine expert. “Athletes in Oman need to be educated on various aspects of fitness and the proper ways of training in order to reduce many injuries that they suffer unnecessarily,” Dr Shehabullah, who accompanied Oman delegation to seven Olympics as team sports medicine physician, said.

With Usain Bolt

In his 38th year at the Ministry of Sports Affairs as senior sports medicine physician, Shehabullah said the urgent requirement is to implement a dedicated physical education curriculum in schools.
“We should start from the schools. The current physical education curriculum is far behind the mark. We need a dedicated and systematic curriculum in this important subject, which is closely linked to one’s health,” Shehabullah, who attended eight Olympics, told Oman Observer in an exclusive interview.
On the sports teams in the Sultanate, the sports doctor said it is only the national teams that are having a proper fitness routine to prevent the injuries.
“Major injuries are less in the national teams as they are much aware of prevention and protection methods. But in the case of general crowd and amateur players, who specially play football, they are still ignorant on these methods. They are more prone to injuries specially ACL injury of the knee,” the physician, who hails from Bangladesh, said.

With Justin Gatlin

ACL tear occurs in non-contact situation when the athlete lands from an aerial tackle/pivoting or decelerating suddenly or suffer a direct kick on the knee by an opponent player.
“This injury keeps an athlete away from playing from 8 months to a year. I call it suicidal injury. One day, I have seen 5 ACL knee injuries… which is too much.
“These days the knee injuries are more in Oman much due to the lack of awareness,” the doctor said.
From 1981, eight Omani players and one Brazilian have lost their lives on ground, much related to heart-muscle diseases.
Ali Suleiman and Salim Ali Mansour are among some famous players who lost their lives on the ground.
“Our job is to prevent, protect, correct, treat and rehabilitate injured athletes with flexibility and full range of motion and to enable his or her safe return to sports. Besides balanced diet, athlete should be fully hydrated for a clean and true sports and ‘no to drugs/doping’ is our moto.”

Shehabullah, who is also an IOC Major Games Sports Physician, has not only focused on his job while on Olympic Games. The sports enthusiast had also pursued his favourite hobby of collecting different National Olympic Committee pins from the participating athletes.
The collection is now more than 6,000 and he had collected the pins from athletes ranging from Usain Bolt to Justin Gatlin to Sania Mirza.
According to Dr Shehabullah’s knowledge, there are only four such major ‘Olympic pin collectors’ in the world with two Americans and a Chinese apart from him.

With Sania Mirza

“This is my passion, to collect Olympic NOC pins. There are more than 6,000 original pins in my collection. This is a collection of memories with the athletes at the Olympics not once but eight times from 1988 to 2016.”
“Each pin has a story to tell and it keeps my memory about the Olympic Games still fresh in my mind.”
“I had to walk atleast 5-10 km to fetch the pins as different athletes from different countries will be located at far away corners of the Olympic Villages,” the physician, who is married to a doctor and has two daughters, said.
He also shared an interesting observation about Ben Johnson when he saw the Canadian athlete up close before the 100 metres race in 1988 Seoul Olympics.
“His eyes were red hot and muscles were like a body builder, just before the race.”
That was the major doping incident and Johnson was stripped off the gold which he won with ease in world record timing.
Shehabullah, who has now visited 95 countries around the world, was accompanying Omani star sprinter Amr Maliki at the Games.
Recalling his photo-ops with famous stars, he said meeting Carl Lewis was special. Also Justin Gatlin, who returned after a doping ban, had asked the doctor to “pray for him” before Gatlin’s duel with Bolt in 2004 Athens Olympics.
Apart from Olympics, Shehabullah had also attended six Asian Games and two Arab Games.

Anuroop athiparambath