It is all but official now that Bangladesh will finish the 18th Asian Games in Jakarta without any medal, despite sending a big contingent and participating in as many as 14 disciplines.
Barring a miracle in hockey, where Bangladesh have to beat Pakistan by some 30 goals today if they are to qualify for the semi-finals, the country has little chance to make it to the list of medal winners in the continent’s biggest sporting meet.
Men’s bridge pair is only other event left unfinished for Bangladesh, but with no history of the game in the country and an average show in the team event of the game it also promises very little.
Bangladesh Olympic Council officials already started soul searching as they had expected a much better show in events like women’s kabaddi, shooting and archery to win a medal or two.
The women’s kabaddi team lost their all three matches, including one against Games’ newcomers Chinese Taipei while shooters showed they are still far from the Asian level despite bringing some sporadic successes in other meets, like Commonwealth Games and South Asian Games.
Archery undertook a programme last year to go for gold in Tokyo Olympics in 2020 and the Asian Games was a true test for them to be hopeful of a realistic chance.
Ruman Shana, arguably the best archer from Bangladesh, started the Games by finishing third in the qualifying round, but he too failed when it mattered most in the main draw.
Before the Games, officials of the Bangladesh Archery Federation said they would be satisfied to reach the quarter-final stage in some events even if they cannot win a medal.
But in reality, Bangladesh qualified for the quarter-finals in only one event of archery — men’s recurve team event — which provided another grim picture of a promising event.
‘Though we always say we need experience, but there is always a limit. By taking experience at one stage you have to go for medal,’ said Bangladesh deputy chef the mission AK Sarker.
Sarker highlighted the need of massive overhaul in Bangladesh’s sports policy, including improving the infrastructure and talent scouting, if they are to get at least some success in future events.
‘In an event like Asian Games our athletes have seen their lacking, our organisers also have seen it. They have seen that the facilities that should be given to prepare an athlete in true sense that we don’t have,’ he said.
‘In our country, three to four disciplines train in one venue. The weight training, strength training is very essential these days but we don’t have this.
‘There are some gifted athletes. To enrich them you have to increase the facilities. There are some isolated places carrying these facilities, but they are maybe from six to seven kilometres far from the venue. By overcoming Dhaka traffic this it is difficult for them to avail these opportunities.
‘Scouting is also important. Here we have seen many female athletes six feet taller. Naturally they are getting advantage [over us]. We have to do the scouting considering this physical ability.
‘In our country, you can normally see some poor people run in villages. They don’t have the height. They suffer from the absence of nutrition from the beginning. They don’t get the strength. We have to address these things,’ said the BOA official.
It was, however, not all negative for Bangladesh as they have exceeded expectations in some events, especially in football where they qualified for the second round for the first time.
Bangladesh hockey team, which never finished less than eighth in an Asian Games, also did well to win three matches so far that could still give them a decent standing, at better than the past.
Athlete Sumi Akter clocked her personal best in women’s 400m and 800m race but they were nowhere close to win a medal for her or Bangladesh.
Bangladesh also can take consolation from the fact that there are countries that have sent bigger contingents but are yet to win a medal.
Nepal came to Jakarta with 185 athletes, Sri Lanka sent 173 athletes and Maldives sent 143 compared to Bangladesh’s 117 but all were without a medal until Monday.
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