Ardina Ferdous was overcome with joy after she won a silver medal in the women’s individual 10m air pistol event of the 13th South Asian Games at the Satdobato Sports Complex in Kathmandu yesterday.
The 26-year-old, who comes from a family with a long tradition in shooting, brought Bangladesh their first individual silver from these Games, which is also the best-ever achievement for individual women’s pistol shooting in an international multi-sport event.
“I am really grateful to Allah for this day. Last time, three years ago, I was in a medal-winning position, but a glitch with my pistol deprived me of a medal.
“So I was a bit tensed today, thinking what if something like that happens again,” said Ardina, who finished with 234.6 points, losing to eventual gold-winner Parmanantham Shri Nivetha of India by 3.8 points after having trailed by just 0.3 points prior to the start of the gold-deciding shootout between the two.
Soon after her final shots, Ardina was mobbed and congratulated by the Bangladesh Shooting Sport Federation officials and her colleagues, who even managed to squeeze out an instant reward of 100 US dollars from the team manager.
It was not as if the country had never won any silver or gold medals on such platforms before -- Bangladesh did win individual gold in Commonwealth Games shooting way back in 2002 and also had individual golds at the SA Games before -- but in recent times Bangladesh’s shooting has been losing its medal-hauling capabilities with such continuity that Ardina’s feat came almost as a relief for the sport.
Prior to Friday, Bangladesh had won only three silver medals -- all coming in team events whereas India, once Bangladesh’s competitors in this sport, have already gotten into double digits in the gold medal haul. And they are managing to turn it into a monopoly this time too, despite leaving behind a lot of shooters who have already ensured the Olympic quota position.
Shovon Chowdhury, a member of Bangladesh’s rifle-shooting team, spoke unreservedly of the true state of the yawning gap between the two countries.
“If India sends their fifth-tier shooters, they will be good enough to win gold medals here,” Shovon said, before pointing to an Indian shooter. “See the kit she is carrying over there? That’s a set of ammunition for her personal pratice. She can import these ammunitions from abroad, with the federation’s money and without paying any tax,” said the shooter frustratedly.
A female member of the team, also frustrated, said: “India have a coach for every two or three shooters while we have just one for the entire team, one in rifle and one in pistol. Money is a big issue in this sport but obviously there are other issues involved.”
Money, or a lack of sponsors, was cited as the official reason when Danish rifle coach Klavs Christensen’s four-year contract was not renewed at the end of his third year in October 2018. Under Christensen, Bangladesh had shown signs of steady progress, with Abdullahel Baki winning silver in the 2016 Commonwealth Games and Arnab Sharar sealing a Youth Olympics place. But since his departure, Bangladesh’s rifle shooters were without a guide until former national shooter Saiful Alam Rinki was appointed as coach only two months before the SA Games.
With Baki’s failure to win a silver or gold in 10m air rifle, the only hope of an individual gold medal in shooting rests with Shakil Ahmed, a gold medallist in the 2016 SA Games. There is slight hope in two mixed events too, featuring Baki with Atkia Hasan Disha in rifle and Shakil with Ardina in pistol. Unless those events fetch a gold medal, Bangladesh will end these regional games without a gold for the first time since 2006 and for the second time overall.