Twinkle of success for Pakistani powerlifting duo

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Twinkle of success for Pakistani powerlifting duo
Twinkle Sohail lifts weights at a gym in Lahore.

Lahore - Twinkle Sohail and Sonia Azmat have the weight of the Pakistani Christian world on their shoulders


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Published: Wed 7 Sep 2016, 11:24 PM

Last updated: Thu 8 Sep 2016, 1:28 AM

Twinkle Sohail and Sonia Azmat have the weight of the Pakistani Christian world on their shoulders, but if anyone can bear the hopes of such a persecuted minority, it is these teenage champion powerlifters.
Last year Twinkle became the first Pakistani woman to represent her country in powerlifting, taking a gold medal in the 57-kilogramme junior event at the Asian Bench Press Championship in her first attempt.
The next day, her teammate Sonia took a second gold medal for Pakistan in the 63-kilogramme category, earning her place in the history books alongside Twinkle.
The achievements of the two young Christian women represent a rare bright spot for a minority who frequently find themselves the targets of extremist attacks - such as the one carried out in Lahore last Easter that killed 72 people, many of them children.
Christians also routinely fall victim to the country's controversial blasphemy laws, which carry the death penalty in the conservative Muslim country, and many are stuck in menial jobs such as sanitation or domestic work.
But Twinkle and Sonia, both 19, are proving an inspiration after their triumph in Muscat last year - boosted by a third gold medal from their Muslim teammate, Shazia Kanwal, to see the Pakistanis outclass athletes from 12 countries.
Pakistan, where cricket is the dominant pastime, is taking the rare opportunity to seek success in other sports, funding the women's' return to the Asian championships in Tashkent in October.
With luck they will go further: to the World Powerlifting Championships next year in Florida, in th US.
It will be a long way from the tiny homes on narrow, congested streets in the impoverished Christian areas of Lahore where Twinkle and Sonia were both born.
Twinkle began her career as a cyclist, but was spotted by weightlifting coaches while exercising in the gym and advised to take up powerlifting.

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