In addition to their super skills, great sportspersons have special talents to overcome health, mental and other problems — some of them serious — that threaten their careers.
Wasim Akram, one of cricket's all-time greats, was plagued by a number of problems, even controversies, all through his eventful, illustrious career. But, he has always come through with flying colours.
Besides his genius and match-winning ability, Akram's strong will power and Promethean determination have helped him resolve his problems.
Die-hard cricket aficionados may reel off Akram’s every figure, achievement, and record, but not many know that the Pakistani cricket legend was diagnosed with diabetes in 1997, when he was at the pinnacle of his prowess.
No one in Akram's family, neither from his father's nor mother's side, had been a diabetic. Not even a distant relative, for that matter. And, Akram was a prominent sportsman already conscious of his fitness and diet.
Some lesser sportsman would have broken down, or got disheartened. But, not Akram, a Type-1 diabetic. He never thought of calling it quits. He continued playing active cricket till 2003.
Akram follows a strict regimen and lives a healthy life by religiously keeping his blood sugar levels under control. He has had to, of course, adapt to a new lifestyle, and take insulin injections three times a day. He takes herbal supplements, too.
Besides regular exercise, Akram drinks as much water as he can, sleeps well, and he has kept his weight under control. His wife Huma, a psychiatrist and hypnotherapist, helps him in his keep-fit-mentally-and-physically programme.
It's amazing the way Akram maintained an appropriate lifestyle management plan, despite his tight cricketing schedule and "play-travel-play" grind, during his playing days. He would bowl marathon spells, at times, braving the scorching heat, or testing conditions, never ever complaining of fatigue.
It's only once, or twice, did he have to get hospitalised when his sugar levels dropped alarmingly, following a hectic day, or two, on the field. But, it was only to be expected considering the game's heavy demands on Akram's physique and mind.
Says Akram: "I can say from my own experience that diabetics don't get tired so easily. It's only a misconception. Even after being diagnosed with diabetes, I played almost non-stop cricket for eight long years and enjoyed good health as well. Of course, I had to follow a regimen prescribed by my doctors. I've proved that even diabetics can lead a healthy life."
"I'm happy that many diabetics have been deriving inspiration from me when it comes to living a normal, healthy life."
In fact, Akram is a role model for diabetics who wish to overcome their pessimism and live a healthy life. He often visits them and shares his own experience as a diabetic, and as a sports celebrity.
He has been actively sought and involved in various awareness-raising campaigns for diabetes since his retirement.
Akram interacts with scores of people, including those who do not even know him, in many parts of the world. Many of them have been encouraged by his saga of success and perseverance.
The message is loud and clear: if Akram could play international cricket, and also bring laurels for his country, and the game, there is no reason why other diabetics cannot emulate his example - whatever their chosen activity, or profession.
Here is Akram's golden advice to diabetics: "It's a wrong notion that diabetes has a negative effect on the body as well as mind. All you need to do is dispel anxieties about diabetes with a bit of education and, of course, positive approach."
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