The final day of competition at the Jubilee Games lived up to the hype. Team Canada caught up to and overtook Team Pakistan in the medal standings, and everyone in attendance was treated to great matches.
The men’s football gold medal final between Canada Red and Tajikstan Red was everything fans hoped it would be. Canada won the gold medal with a 2-1 come from behind victory, capping off a run that saw them beat USA in the quarter-finals in extra time and Tajikistan White in the semi-finals in penalties.
“I’m speechless,” said Canada’s assistant coach Imtiaz Kassam, commenting on the calibre of the other teams in the tournament. “I’m amazed at how much talent there is.”
With an entire section of the audience chanting “Pamir! Pamir!” in unison, Tajikistan Red went up 1-0 in the first half, with goal-scorer Azamat Elchibekov falling to his knees and pumping his fists skyward.
In the second half, Canada’s Hadi Behdad struck a beauty off the crossbar to tie the game. Then Hoshang Noor Ali streaked down the left side and made a move around a Tajik defender before finishing with a powerful right footer.
While the match was highly competitive, it was not at the expense of Jamati unity.
“I was excited when they were giving each other hugs at the end and they started dancing with each other,” said Sharofat Mamadambarova, President of the Ismaili Council for Tajikistan. “This is the real spirit of brotherhood and belonging to one community, one family. I’m very proud of it.”
In women’s soccer, Canada beat Pakistan 3-0 to take the gold medal. Canada’s first goal came from Farhnaz Sakhi, who scored despite an injured knee.
“It was finals. I had to play,” she said. Sakhi aggravated the injury and had to be substituted out before the 30-minute mark.
Sienna Nanji scored Canada’s second goal, and Khatera Noor scored the third.
“Soccer has been my passion since I was a child,” Noor said. “We played as a team and were able to beat Pakistan.”
At the cricket grounds, excitement overtook the heat in the air for final match between Canada Red and Pakistan White.
Pakistan won the toss and elected to field first. Canada couldn’t match their incredible fielding. After losing all their wickets at 19.4 overs, Canada set a target of 106 runs and Pakistan took the win.
As Pakistan’s opening batsman took to the pitch, the Canadian bowlers showed they were a force to contend with, taking him out quickly. Despite Canada’s showing of fielding, with 21 balls left and 14 runs to make the target total, Pakistan batsman Amir Hamza catapulted his team to victory with a crowd pleasing sixer.
A sea of green flooded the field and jubilant fans broke into rounds of raas and song to celebrate the win.
Though disappointed by the loss, Team Canada’s coach Mushtaq Bhimani was proud of how far the team had come since the 2008 Golden Jubilee Games.
“This experience has been amazing,” he said during the match. “In Kenya we didn’t make it past the quarter-finals, so to make it all the way here is just outstanding.”
Track and Field
Team Pakistan cleaned up on the final day at the track, winning six gold medals in the seven events contested: men’s 4 x 100 m, 4 x 400 m, 400 m, 1500 m and women’s 4 x 400 m, 800 m. They added two silvers and two bronzes for a total of ten medals on Thursday.
Myra Nur Lakdawala and Noushad Ali led the way, each winning gold in one individual and one relay event. Lakdawala’s performance put her on three golds and one silver to lead track & field athletes at the Games.
The men’s relays were not close as both anchors had time to celebrate before crossing the finish line.
“It was something that pumped us up,” said Kainat Imtiaz, a member of Pakistan’s 4 x 100 m relay team on the strong performance by the men. “It was amazing.”
The one exception to Pakistan’s dominance was Canada’s win in the 4 x 100 m women’s relay. After a little difficulty on the first handoff, Canada gained speed in the middle legs, creating a comfortable margin of victory. Aleeza Ladhani, Aliyyah Datoo, Iqra Nanji, Safia Ladha and Saira Babul made up the winning team.
Babul, who ran the third leg, led the Canadian track & field contingent with four medals — two gold and two silver.
“I wasn’t expecting to come home with medals,” she said. “It was because of the team’s efforts.”
On her overall time at the Jubilee Games, she said: “It’s been a pleasant surprise and an amazing experience.”
The women’s basketball final came to a surprisingly exciting end after it looked out of reach for Team USA with Team Canada up 31-19 with under 5 minutes to play.
USA pressed hard, forcing steals and jump balls. With two three pointers, including a Steph Curry-like shot by Mehak Delawalla 3 feet from the three-point line, they closed the gap to 31-28. Audience members held their breath as Team USA had possession with under 10 seconds, but Canada managed to defend and hold on for the win.
“That was a really scary game,” said Canada’s captain Alyah Karim. “We started it awesome like we wanted to but they came back in the end. We’ve had several close games that were within five points but our team has a lot of experience.”
With the gold medal in tow, Karim said she was excited to finally relax. “We haven’t been able to breathe properly since all our games have been so close. We’re going to do something very fun.”
The women’s volleyball final pit the two teams representing Tajikistan against each other. Asked which side he was cheering for, Tajik spectator Sultonkarim Gavorov said: “It doesn’t matter. They are both from Tajikistan!”
Tajikistan Red took the first set 25-21, but the White team came back to win the second 25-21. In the third, Red prevailed 15-7. As confetti littered the court, a mutual respect and admiration was shown by both teams as they joined hands and hugged.
The Red team is made of many players from the Gorno-Badakshan regional team who‘ve won competitions at the national level and are highly ranked within Tajikistan, while many players from the White team live in Russia. Both teams contained former members of the Gorno-Badakshan regional team and represented Tajikistan at the 2008 games in Kenya.
USA Red — the team that calls themselves the Titans — came into the Jubilee Games as the team to beat. They lived up to the hype defeating USA Blue in the championship game, 45-32.
After a mostly untested run through the group stages and knockout rounds, the Titans felt their stiffest challenge in the gold-medal game. USA Blue, who call themselves BATS — Believe, Achieve, Together we Succeed — played a disciplined game to limit the Titans’ fast-break opportunities.
In the end, the defence of the Titan’s 6-foot 7-inch centre Rahim Hemani was a difference maker as USA Blue had trouble getting into the paint. His long arms forced the BATS to maneuver around him, forcing awkward, hard to make shots.
“[Hemani] carried us the entire tournament,” said Titan’s point guard Asad Meghani. “He was definitely our anchor on defense and offense and we tried to play through him every game.”
Neither team was able to create much separation for most of the game, as the scoring margin didn’t exceed six points for the first 38 minutes. Then, with 1:22 remaining, Meghani sank a three-pointer, extending their lead to eight. They didn’t look back from there.
The win was a fitting end for the oldest player and founding member of the Titans, Zeeshan Gowani. After starting the team in 2001, Gowani vowed not to retire until he was an international champion — a dream he accomplished Thursday.
“We’re a family. More than a team, we’re a family,” captain and coach Danish Pradhan said. “To send out one of our brothers as a champion is all we can do.”
Men’s Table Tennis
The defending champion reclaimed his throne.
Alim Hirji of the United Kingdom, was 18 when he won the gold medal in men’s singles at the 2008 Golden Jubilee Games. On the final day in Dubai, he defended his title against Team Pakistan’s Aahil Tharani, winning in straight sets 11-5, 11-6, 11-5, 11-6.
While Hirji was the favorite coming into the tournament, the 19-year-old Tharani unexpectedly smashed past his competition to make the final.
“[Tharani] came on with a game plan,” said Hirji after winning the gold. He said Tharani hit hard and took risks that worked for him early on, but after a while Hirji “coped with it.”
Following the 2008 Golden Jubilee Games in Kenya, Hirji played table tennis professionally for a year before going into management consulting. He says he hopes to savour the 2016 victory more.
“I was 18 so I remember bits of it, but not everything,” he said. “I hope that this time it sinks in a bit more. Hopefully it will once I get a medal.”
Tharani had a chance to celebrate later in the day, became a champion himself when he won the gold medal in doubles with his partner Kamran Sarang.
In women’s singles, Team UAE’s Tehzeeb Bhimani beat Team Tajikistan’s Murodbakht Gulmamadova over a tough five set match 11-7, 11-7, 11-13, 11-7, 11-7.
The spirit of sportsmanship, dedication to excellence and promoting healthy lifestyle was evident in the squash finals.
The women’s final pitted Kenya’s Khaaliqa Nimji, 18, against Canada’s Shahira Patni-Tejpar, 57. Nimji represented her country in the Commonwealth Games in 2010 and 2014, while Patni-Tejpar has been playing squash for over 40 years.
Nimji’s graceful and powerful style kept Patni-Tejpar fighting for every point, and the younger competitor eventually won 11-2, 11-5. 11-5.
For the Canadian, the silver medal was a nice improvement on her quarter-final loss at the 2008 Golden Jubilee Games. Patni-Tejpar says she’s even more motivated to continue playing, and she has recently entered the Americas Masters Games taking place at the end of August in Vancouver.
The men’s final had Pakistan’s Shamsudin Mistry, 39, face Canada’s Rafik Bhaloo, 27.
The younger Bhaloo showed why he was the pre-tournament favourite, winning the first set 11-4 before Mistry made the decision to retire due injury. Bhaloo took home the gold medal.
Team Canada cleaned up in golf. By the end of the three grueling rounds played in Dubai’s heat, they had five of the six medals available.
On the women’s side Canada swept the podium with Alisha Corringham sitting at plus-14 to win gold, Zabeen Ladha taking silver at plus-21 and Naz Remtulla taking bronze at plus-28.
The men’s competition was so close it had to be decided on extra holes. Team Canada’s Sadiq Jiwa started the final day seven strokes back of Team UK’s Zain Kajani. Jiwa had a good start to his final round and by the 16th holes he was just five shots back.
Jiwa knocked in a birdie putt about 50 feet long on 16 while Kajani hit a bogie and going into the 18th hole Jiwa was two shots back. On the 18th, Jiwa hit another birdie while Kajani hit a bogie on 17, eventually forcing a sudden death playoff.
On the playoff hole, Kajani hit a birdie to win the gold medal. Jiwa and Kajani’s official scores for three rounds was +8, while bronze medalist Shaez Allidina was six back at +14.
“Credit to Zain, he played phenomenally,” said Jiwa afterwards. “I played the round of my life. I couldn’t have asked for anything better and I feel like I earned the silver medal.”
“I told Zain, I’ll see him at the next Games.”