While athletes from the majority of disciplines are eagerly waiting for the situation to improve so they can get back to formal training, weightlifters across the country are paving the way as they returned to full-fledged training despite the increasing number of COVID-19 cases.
According to the Bangladesh Weightlifting Federation's (BWF) statistics, 198 weightlifters, including 53 females, from 16 clubs have resumed training at their respective training centers in 13 districts: Gazipur, Mymensingh, Khulna, Bagerhat, Kishorganj, Kushtia, Dinajpur, Naogaon, Rajshahi, Meherpur, Narail, Pirojpur and Dhaka. Five services teams have started training with their respective national players.
The Youth and Sports Ministry last week sought permission from the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare to resume training for non-contact disciplines, but the BWF did not wait for that approval given the nature of the discipline, which inevitably maintains social distance.
Like other disciplines, weightlifters also spent idle time while maintaining fitness at home during the lockdown following the coronavirus outbreak, but they did not waste any time after the government opened everything up on a limited scale on May 30.
"We even practiced unofficially sometimes during the shutdown because out target is to win a gold medal from the national championships," Azharul Islam, the founder of Azhar Academy in Kishorganj, told The Daily Star, adding that local administration had been helping tremendously.
"As we could not conduct training uninterruptedly during the shutdown, we started training on May 30 to shake off the rust as we have 15 weightlifters, including seven females, who are eligible for the national championships," said discus-thrower Azharul, who is still competing, before adding that his academy's Marzia Akter Ikra represented Bangladesh in the Youth Championships in Uzbekistan in 2015.
"There are even less participants now but we are conducting training maintaining social distancing with four to five weightlifters in a single session," said Mohammad Sohel, coach of Modern Bodybuilding Club in Dinajpur.
Mymensingh's Muslim Institute and Weightlifting Club coach and former national player, Biddut Kumar Roy, who also coaches Bangladesh Ansar and takes care of Ansar players at the grassroots level, said: "We kept training halted for the first month of the shutdown and afterwards, we resumed with the participation of budding players -- five male and four female weightlifters, only two of whom had participated in the national championships last year."
However, renowned coach Moazzem Hossain has kept training closed at the Moazzem Weightlifting Club in Meherpur to curb the spread of the virus and is thinking of resuming after Eid-ul-Adha.
"As a precautionary measure, I have kept the club closed. But the weightlifters are doing physical exercises at home while a couple of players are training with instruments. I am thinking whether to resume training after Eid-ul-adha," said Moazzem, whose clubs has produced a total of 244 medals, including 92 golds, in the junior and senior championships since 1980.
The BWF has come forward as well by providing equipment to clubs and service teams. It is also planning to hold online competitions in August or September to recognise the clubs' efforts.
BWF vice-president Mohyuddin Ahmed said that the federation was providing equipment to clubs who have their own places to conduct training with the aim of spreading weightlifting across the country. He added that the federation gymnasium is open and that national players can avail the facilities if they want.