"We should adapt to new trends and appoint a coach for each athlete if we want to get international success."
That was the realisation made by Bangladesh's fastest man, Mohammad Ismail, after taking part in the inaugural International Athletic Imam Reza Cup Tournament in Iran last week.
Ismail has thrice been crowned the fastest man in Bangladesh and broke the 27-year-old national 100m sprint record in 2019 by clocking in 10.20 seconds (hand-timing). In the recently-concluded Bangladesh Games, he represented Bangladesh Navy and took 10.50 seconds (hand-timing) to clinch gold.
However, the 29-year-old sprinter has had varying experiences in international competitions. In Iran, he finished eighth out of eight sprinters, clocking in at 10.91 seconds (electronic-timing), 0.21 seconds more than the time he made when he finished fourth at the South Asian Games in Nepal in 2019.
"It has been a different experience in Iran because of the ongoing pandemic. It was really difficult for me to compete in Iran so soon after completing the Bangladesh Games. Because an athlete always has a peak when it comes to performing after labourious training. So, I had my peak during Bangladesh Games and virtually could not perform in Iran although I qualified for the eight-man final round among 36 sprinters," said Ismail, who is in quarantine after returning from Iran on April 13.
Asked whether he talked with athletes and coaches from other nations to learn about their training methods amidst the pandemic, Ismail said: "I had a brief discussion with an Iranian coach and he informed me that Iranian athletes have been practicing in a Covid-19-free environment at a sports complex but their domestic competitions are not taking place."
Ismail also believes that time should not be wasted awaiting the end of the pandemic and that the Bangladesh Athletic Federation should instead start training with a small number of athletes who are capable of delivering international medals.
"Because everything has been going on amid the pandemic, training can be arranged by the federation. There is no way to have training with 100 athletes, but it is a new trend to bring an athlete under a coach. I saw two Iranian sprinters in the Imam Cup under two different coaches. The sprinters from Maldives, Sri Lanka and Pakistan are training under individual coaches. Bangladesh should adopt this trend to get international success," opined Ismail.
Athletes from services teams have been dominating competitions in Bangladesh, but Ismail still believes there is talent at the district level.
"Athletes from services teams are doing better on the back of uninterrupted training, but some athletes from the district level also did well to win bronze medals in the Bangladesh Games despite a lack of training and quality coaching. That shows they are also talented athletes and I think they should be given long-term training and groomed for future," said Ismail, who also wanted long-term training for himself as well as modern machines to hone skills.
"Athletes must be given proper training as well as good nutrition. We also need modern equipment like electronic boards and step counters which will measure the athletes' physical ability and stride and judge performance. Athletes also need a fully-equipped gymnasium to produce good results," Bangladesh's fastest man concluded.