Shooting was one of the major goldmines for Bangladesh in the South Asian Games, but the country saw its shooters return home with only wooden spoons from the last edition of the SA Games in Nepal -- only the second times in Bangladesh's shooting history that they ended the regional showpiece without a gold medal in the discipline.
It was widely believed that a lack of talented shooters in the Bangladesh squad was a major reason behind the debacle and one of the underlying reasons for that was the Bangladesh Shooting Sports Federation's (BSSF) insistence on focusing on existing shooters that were seen as finished products instead of paying attention to the grassroots level and grooming new shooters as the pipeline dried up at the club level.
However, the Bangabandhu 9th Bangladesh Games proved to be an eye-opener for all and sundry after o the Army Shooting Association (ASA) presented a number of promising shooters who outshone all the experienced hands, including Abdullah Hel Baki and Shakil Ahmed, and dominated the Gulshan Shooting Range by winning eight of 16 golds.
The emergence of shooters like Yousuf Ali, Nafisha Tabassum, Anjila Amjad, Sabbir Al Amin, Abdur Razzak, Nasiruddin Chowdhury Fahim, Mehnaj Sharmin Mim and Turing Dewan in the 10m air rifle and 10m air pistol events provided renewed hope to Bangladeshi shooting while shooters like Amira Hamid, Arnab Shahrar Ladid and Fardin Mohammad Arnab once again proved their worth by finishing on top in their respective events.
The ASA has been hunting talent from the grassroots level, nurturing talents and holding inter-formation competitions regularly to unearth potential shooters.
"We are hunting talent from the school level and inter-formation competitions regularly. We initially pick 20 to 25 shooters before trimming the number to 5 to 7 after providing them with two-to-four weeks of training. Afterwards, we offer contracts to those who have good potential at the national and international level," said ASA coach Mohammad Jalaluddin, who took the charges of ASA in January, 2019.
Jalaluddin also informed that they were recruiting shooters from junior level competitions. From there, they have picked up national shooter Atkia Hasan Disha, Sakibul Alam, Nafisa Tabassum and Tamjid Bin Alam.
SA Games gold medalist and Commonwealth Games silver medallist shooter Shakil is an ASA product. He was found in 2014 during an inter-formation competition before bursting into the limelight in 2016 by winning a gold medal in the SA Games in Guwahati. Now, others are waiting to follow in those footsteps.
BSSF secretary general Intekhabul Hamid Apu has already said that they are thinking of bringing all potential shooters for long-term training under foreign coaches and that they were looking for a suitable coach.
National shooting coach Golam Shafiuddin Khan Shiplu also believes the emergence of new shooters from the Games will also put some pressure on experienced shooters.
"They are good shooters and they proved that by winning gold medals. However, they must be brought into the national camp for further improvement because there is no alternative to practicing and taking part in international tournaments regularly," Shiplu said.