Visa, sponsor issues put champion cyclist's World Duathlon dream in danger
In the last 6-7 years, Rakibul Islam (30) played a key role in popularising cycling as a sport among the younger generation of Bangladesh.
But the national gold medal winning cyclist is now going through uncertain times regarding his participation in the Duathlon Championship-2023 in Switzerland due to sponsorship and visa complications.
Rakibul is the first Bangladeshi athlete who has qualified to participate in this world event. He is also the only invited contestant from the South Asian countries this year.
The Powerman Duathlon World Championships is a long-distance competition held in Zofingen, Switzerland. One of the toughest sports competitions in the world, the Duathlon World Championships features 10-km run, followed by a 150-km cycling race and then a 30-km run – all in the hilly areas.
Rakibul said participating in this event was a dream for him. He has been preparing for the last five years, leaving his job three years ago and practising alone in the Khagrachari hills for the past two years.
This world event will be held on September 2-3 where Rakibul is supposed to compete against selected athletes (160 to 170) from around the world. But Rakibul's trip to Switzerland has become uncertain.
The championship authorities sent an invitation letter to Rakibul on July 13, but Rakibul had to deal with a lot of issues to apply for the visa and manage all the necessary documents and sponsors.
He applied for a Schengen visa on the August 8, but was informed by the Swiss Embassy that there is no date (slot) left for the visa interview until the September 11. The embassy said that he had to apply at least 15 days in advance to get a Schengen visa.
When asked why the visa application was delayed, Rakibul said, "Many documents are required to participate in this competition. No objection letter from my authority (Chittagong Sports Authority), World Champions Race License issued by World Triathlon Organization (WTO), sponsor confirmation, race insurance and several other official documents including notarisation of civil status needed to be collected.
"In addition, due to the recent floods, travelling from Khagrachari to Dhaka or Chittagong has become very difficult. Along with this, we have to pay the event registration fee. The credit card from the country can pay a maximum of 300 dollars at a time. But the fee is 410 dollars. So I had to buy coupons and stick those together for the registration," Rakibul said.
"Also, bank statements of me and my sponsor are required. It is very difficult for me to get a sponsor. However, on August 9, I managed a sponsor but they are not able to pay for the full expenditure, leaving me in big trouble at the last stage," added Rakibul.
I tried to overcome all those hurdles, but eventually was told by the embassy that the interview slot will not be available before September 11. But I need to go to Switzerland before August 28, the champion cycling informed.