Mubarak Mohsin is aiming for the top in the world of squash after a change of lifestyle has galvanised him on the court.
Pakistani boy squashes overweight problems
Mubarak Mohsin was an overweight 12-year-old with no interest in sport when he moved with the rest of his family to join his father, Mohsin Musa, in Abu Dhabi.
For him, the transformation in the five years he has lived in the capital has been incredible. He turned 17 on January 23 and is now the No 1 junior squash player in the Emirates, due to a gruelling training regime overseen by his father, who is also his coach.
Mohsin was forced to go on a strict diet and take part in a fitness programme, but has enjoyed the full benefit of it as he has been able to take his success in local competitions to the international stage, and he is determined to achieve more goals in age group events.
He grew up in Karachi, Pakistan, while his father was employed in Abu Dhabi and being the youngest of four and only boy in the family, he had a pampered lifestyle. It had to change, and it did as his father taught him the skills needed to play squash.
"I had bad eating habits and didn't have any love for sport," Mohsin said. "I was 12 and weighed more than 70 kilos. I looked like a laughing stock. I was short, fat and could hardly move. And worst of all, didn't have a clue about playing any game.
"It was agony at first. I had to cut down on the junk food that I loved so much and then going through a strict fitness programme. Everything I did was first time and it was so difficult for me to handle such strenuous workouts. But the worst was to change to a more balanced diet."
Mohsin has grown to 5ft 6ins and weighs 71kgs, thanks to exercise and good nutrition. He now only eats home-cooked food with less carbohydrates and more protein, such as seafood and salads.
He also does a three-hour workout six days a week and sometimes twice a day if it is a weekend or school holiday.
"I enjoy the training, mindful of my diet and very conscious of all other related matter to improve my game," he said. "I started enjoying the sport more when I started to win tournaments, first locally, and the opportunity to travel abroad."
Mohsin moved to No 60 in the World Under 17 rankings after reaching the semi-finals of the Scottish Open in January. Prior to that, he won the consolation prize in the Boston Junior Open U17 in the United States in December. His aim is to reach the top 10 in the next two years in the U19 category.
Musa who has been a squash coach for more than 20 years and works at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, admits his son was the most difficult student he had come across.
"He was not only overweight but lazy and didn't like squash," he said. "I virtually forced it upon him. He was reluctant at the beginning and I had to promise to buy some of his favourite electronic games to get him to do his workout.
"He doesn't need any more cajoling because he is now aware of the benefits. He does everything by himself. He is aware of the workload required if he has to succeed in the world circuit and is working to achieve them."
A few tours have also drained his father's financial resources and many of the planned trips in the summer may not materialise unless the youngster can generate sponsorship. Musa has to raise Dh50,000 for the upcoming events in France, Germany, Holland and the Finnish Open in the summer.
"I have received a lot of promises but no one has so far come forward," Musa said. "I have run dry with my finances at this critical stage and fear for my son's progress."
Another key in Mohsin's continued development is to play against quality opposition. The sport in the Emirates is mostly a recreational hobby and the Abu Dhabi League, in which he remains unbeaten, does not provide him the kind of challenge he would need to improve his own game.
Zubair Khan and Doulat Khan, the squash coaches at the Armed Forces Officers Club, provide him with some games during their free time.
Mohsin has made good progress since taking up the sport in 2005, becoming the U13 champion in 2005/06 and winning the U15 and U17 championship titles in the next two years, as well as being Men's Open champion last year.
His first taste in the international arena was the Hong Kong Open in August 2008, in which he reached the U15 quarter-finals. He also won the City View Junior Open U17 in New York in August 2009.
"I have started to enjoy the rewards of the hard work," Mohsin said. "But I want to achieve more for myself and my father, who has spent all his free time and a lot of hard-earned money to get me to this position."
It is also a crucial period for the year 11 student of Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Arab Pakistan School, as he has to prepare for the Federal Board of Pakistan examination in April.
"Yes, I have to balance my squash with the studies and I am managing," he said. "They are both important for my future."