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Tuesday, October 20, 2020

A giant leap for ‘Tiktoker’ Asif Magsi

Asif Magsi’s jump over 11 motorcycles catches Carl Lewis’s attention but experts say he has a long way to go.

Written by Andrew Amsan | Updated: August 8, 2020 7:53:06 am
Asif Magsi’s jump over 11 motorcycles catches Carl Lewis’s attention

A ‘Tiktoker’ from Pakistan Asif Magsi has caught the attention of a certain nine-time Olympic champion Carl Lewis. His most recent jaunt on social media involved him leaping over 11 motorcycles, all lined up in a row, in a video posted by Kalim Khan on Twitter that has crossed one million views. Lewis, a man who recorded 65 consecutive long jump victories over a 10-year span, too was one of the viewers, and admirers of the feat.

But the video of the wiry Magsi’s giant leap has resulted in the 21-year-old being for trials by the Athletics Federation of Pakistan (AFP).

Athletics though isn’t really an occupation for him. Not yet, at least. In the evenings he is the night guard on a relative’s farm. During the day he goes fishing and makes Tik Tok videos. The cricket lover has had no training nor does he follow the athletics. So when Lewis, a four-time Olympic gold medallist in the long jump event, commented about his video on Twitter, saying: “Actually with his lack of fear, he has the perfect mindset,” Magsi didn’t realise his popularity would soar further.

“I didn’t know who Carl Lewis was,” Magsi says to The Indian Express. “Everyone was calling me and congratulating me that Carl Lewis has commented on your video but I was like, ‘Who’s Carl?’ Then I googled his name and I was shocked beyond explanation. It was the happiest moment of my life.”

Though his latest video has brought him fame, Magsi, the sole breadwinner of the family, was often ridiculed for posting videos on social media. The youngster was constantly advised to do something more constructive if he wanted to fulfil his dream of joining the Pakistan army.

“Mera mazak udathe the sab (everyone used to laugh at me). But now that I have gained so much attention they have taken a U-turn,” he says lightly.

His feat has been commended, but experts The Indian Express reached out to say he needs to tweak his technique. India’s only track and field senior World Championship medallist Anju Bobby George analysed another clip of Magsi, where he jumps over a canal.

“It’s a very flat jump. His running is flat,” she says. “The angle at which his front foot lands while running is not ideal and will not allow him to gain maximum thrust. While jumping, he is completing just a half cycle and is not using his hands. After the take-off, his left leg isn’t doing much.”

India’s national jumps coach Bedros Bedrosian echoed Anju’s views. The seasoned coach, however, says there is no way to ascertain how he would fare unless he jumped at an Olympic-standard long jump track.

“Everything about the jump was not right, from the leap to the landing. But he seems to have covered a fair bit of distance so what is the harm in giving him a trial?” the seasoned coach says.

Such adventurous videos sit well with Bedrosian. After all, he is open to taking unconventional routes to spot talent.
“When I was coaching in Oman, I was told that there were few boys who could jump over seven camels in the Salalah desert,” he explains.

“I went to take a look and realised a lot of what I was told was inaccurate. It was only four camels and they were using a platform to jump over the camels. A few of them were taken for further trials at the capital city of Muscat but none fared well.”

AFP president Maj gen (retd) Muhammad Akram, who has invited the Thatta resident to Lahore for trials seemed optimistic though. So did Akram Sahi, a former long jump national champion, who felt Magsi’s “action in the air” shows his potential of becoming a “world-class athlete”, according to reports in Pakistani media.

Meanwhile, Muhammed Zafar, secretary of the AFP was measured when he spoke to The Indian Express.

“We got to know about him through social media and we have invited him for trial. We can give you further details about the course of action only after we assess him,” he says.

The idea of jumping over bikes struck the youngster almost a year back. He began with five bikes and gradually increased the number. He had some friendly competition from his cousins but they couldn’t jump beyond seven. The jump over 11, although it looks cinematic and fluid in slow motion, is fraught with risk.

“There’s no room for error. Once I was jumping seven bikes and my leg got stuck in one of the handles and I fell down. I hurt very badly but I brushed myself up and was ready for another attempt,” he recalls.

Ever since the video has gone viral, Magsi’s phone has not stopped buzzing. Every day he faces the camera for at least half a dozen TV news channels from his region.

“They keep calling me. I wouldn’t have taken your call, but you had mentioned that you were from India,” he says jovially. Then he adds, “I have huge respect for the country. I want to be a good human and sportsperson like Dhoni and Virat.”

Although there is a lot of hype on social media, Magsi’s real test will be when he appears from trials.

Back in India, the sports minister Kiren Rijiju had, on two occasions, facilitated trials for people based on social media videos. In the first instance, Rameshwar Gurjar from Madhya Pradesh, who allegedly finished a 100m in 11 seconds while running barefoot last year, produced dismal timings during the trial. In the second instance in February this year, Karnataka’s Kambala runner Srinivas Gowda refused the offer.

Once the video went viral, even the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) shared the video on their official Twitter handle, commenting: “Pakistan is blessed with abundance of talent. All the best, Asif Magsi, we hope you continue your hard work and earn international recognition!”

By then though, he had already caught the attention of long-jump royalty, Lewis.

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