Lack of interest among school and college students and the indifference of Bangladesh Athletics Federation appeared to have taken a heavy toll on the game, leaving it agonisingly short of new talent.
It was brutally exposed in the just-concluded 41st National Athletics Championship, which failed to unveil a single new athlete in any event much to the frustration of coaches and officials.
Usually, coaches of different service teams wait for the national meet to pick up new athlete from the district level who could be nurtured for future. But districts failed miserably in the competition, winning just one medal and that too was a bronze.
Out of 27 districts that have participated in 35 events of the meet, only Noakhali district got a place in the podium thanks to Shamsunnahar, who managed a bronze in the 3000-metre run.
Mezbah Ahmed and Shirin Akter retained their supremacy in men’s and women’s 100-metre sprints respectively over half-a-decade while Shirin said she won the 200-metre sprint virtually without any preparation.
Azharul Islam won his 32nd gold in national level in discus throw event while the same scenario prevailed in women’s 100-metre hurdle, men’s high jump and long jump events.
The 2006 and 2010 South Asian Games silver medallist Sumita Rani tasted her 18th gold medal in national level in women’s hurdle while Sazib Hossain won his eighth national gold in the high jump.
The 2010 South Asian Games bronze winner long jumper Al Amin continued his dominance in the high jump event.
Coaches of different service teams couldn’t hide their frustrations over not to see new talents.
Bangladesh Navy jump coach Mohammad Rofiqul Islam claimed lack of practice in the school and college level affected the game badly.
‘In the past, we got many raw talents from district level as schools organised athletics competitions regularly,’ said Rafiqul. ‘But the schools lost their interest in holding athletics competitions, which affected the performance of district teams.
Rofiqullah Milon, a veteran grassroots athletics coach, who produced many athletes like Nazmunnahar Beauty, Shamsunnahar Chumki, Mahfuzur Rahman Mithu in Noakhali district, said the coaches of districts face a lot of problems to run their programme.
‘Most of the district sports association is busy patronising some popular sports like cricket and football,’ he said. ‘They spend most of their money in the spot and athletics get hardly any support.
‘You need round the year training to be a good athlete so it needs money. But the district organisers hardly show their interest in the game.
Bangladesh Athletics Federation was also left frustrated due to the absence of new talent. .
‘Most of the district has no activities for athletics and we are also responsible for that because we failed to give them proper support,’ federation joint secretary Farid Khan said.
The officials also blamed the Bangladesh Krira Sikkha Pratisthan for their lack of interest.
‘Despite having all facilities BKSP didn’t win any medal this year. The most surprising thing was that BSKP sent only one competitor this year national meet.
BKSP athletic coach Abdullah Hel Kafi claimed due to the absence of quality athletes they refrained from sending more than one athlete in the meet.
‘We are really struggling to find talented athletes in the last few years as no one want to give his son or daughter in the athletic discipline,’ he said. ‘Currently, we have only 34 students but most of them are not good enough to compete in the national meet,’ he said.
Kafi said lack of interest had had a direct influence on BKSP, who recently reduced quota for athletes from 10 to six.
‘I can’t blame the BKSP authority because they reduced the quota considering the interest,’ he said.
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