PESHAWAR: Pakistan’s fastest man, Sami Ullah, who won the bronze medal in the men’s 100-meter race at the 13th South Asian Games in Nepal on Tuesday, is all into sports, but he also needs to support his family, which he does with a traditional rice dish – pulao.
“I know that I need time to practice and improve my speed, but I am also aware that my family depends on my pulao sales,” the 25-year-old athlete told Arab News during a phone call from Nepal’s Katmandu on Thursday.
The young runner’s talent has been widely recognized even before he won the gold medal at the National Games in Peshawar last month, when he completed 100 meters in just 10.64 seconds. For comparison, the record of the world’s fastest man, Usain Bolt, for the same distance is 9.58 seconds.
Under his coach, Muhammad Shah, who as Ullah says “polished” his skills, the runner won gold twice when he was a teenager, in the under-14 and under-19 categories. It was also Shah who kept his spirits up when Ullah thought to give up.
“I injured my foot and treatment took four years. It was a crucial point in my sports career. I was disheartened and my dream of becoming a champion seemed to me an illusion,” he said. But at that time the coach and friends came with support and infused into him new energy.
Besides the coach, there was one more very special person who made his sports career possible.
“Since childhood I’ve been assisting my father at his pulao shop,” Ullah said. While back then the father was not enthusiastic about his son’s athletic career, the young runner found a powerful supporter in his mother, who secretly gave him money to buy vitamins and other things he needed to go on.
Sports is his passion, but Ullah knows that he must reconcile it with running the pulao business of his father Dilawar Khan. Khan migrated from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s southern district of Bannu to the town of Jamrud in Khyber, where in a roadside restaurant he introduced the delicious pulao variant of his home region.
His father’s recent retirement, gave Ullah sole responsibility for running the shop.
While he has his eyes fixed on bigger goals and wants to wave Pakistan’s flag in international competitions, the country’s fastest man begins his day slowly with cooking utensils, a manual weighing scale, spoons and a huge pot of rice.
His recipe for success is in loving for both his father’s legacy and his own dreams.
“No doubt, it is a difficult task to keep both the family business and my personal dreams alive,” he said. But he attributes his stamina to having many responsibilities. “That’s why I love both my father’s seat and my own goals,” he said.
His recipe for delicious pulao is in proportion. He mixes 25 kilograms of rice with the same amount of meat and cooks it all in a spicy garam masala blend. The spice mix, however, shall remain a family secret.