Speeding down the road less travelled | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, December 14, 2018 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:06 AM, December 14, 2018

Speeding down the road less travelled

On a hot and windy August day in New Delhi, all the Bangladeshi students of the South Asian University (SAU) rushed to the nearby Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital after hearing of a newly-admitted biochemistry student who had met with a road accident.

They were surprised to learn that the Master's student, Rakibul Islam, had brought his bicycle along with him from Bangladesh and that he was a professional cyclist.

"A bike accident happened right after my arrival in Delhi. It was not that serious, but it made me known as a cyclist throughout SAU," Rakibul, a passionate cyclist who has won many international awards, said.

However, walking the path in such an unusual sport in Bangladesh has not been easy for Rakibul, now working as a pharmacist at Apollo Hospitals Dhaka, as he continues to struggles in pursuit of his passion.

"Cycling is in most cases an individual sport and the Bangladesh Cycling Federation do not have the luxury of participating in every international event, so getting into those events becomes very difficult, not to mention costly. In most cases, I have to gather the money myself but sometimes various donors help me out," Rakibul says when asked about the challenges in his path.

He adds: "Apart from that, dieting is the biggest challenge for an athlete. My current problem is that I have to work for a living so I cannot be a full-time athlete. Another issue is that there are no good coaches available in the country. I am taking currently taking lessons from an online (America-based) coach, which is very expensive."

However, despite all the hurdles in his way, Rakibul has already won many international awards in cycling and running events.

He won the Delhi Gran Fondo 2015 ITT and also became champion in the duathlon event at the Delhi International Triathlon 2016 and the same event at the Dhaka Challenge 2017. In 2017's Fortune Tour de Bangladesh, Rakibul was recognised as the best performer. He also came in fourth in his age category and 15th overall out of 520 contestants at the Powerman Indonesia 2018, a world series duathlon.

Rakibul's passion for cycling started during childhood. He recalled: "I had fascination for cycling since childhood. I used to come home riding 20km from my hostel on the weekends during my high school days. I used to roam around new places with my bike. At Jahangirnagar University (JU), I had the opportunity to join Jahangirnagar Cycling Club in 2010," said Rakibul. "I represented my university for next 2 years. Honesty towards training and never giving up made me hungrier."

He also looks back fondly on his time in Delhi. "My time in Delhi between 2014 and 2016 was full of learning. I used to train with athletes and coaches who were clearly ahead of us in running and cycling."

The 26-year-old also thanked his parents for allowing him to deviate from the future that they wanted for him and to instead let him pursue his dreams.

"My parents' dream was to see me do my MBBS, but after my admission to JU I fell in love with the sport. Now when I go to abroad to participate in various events and win prizes, my parents become happy and appreciate me. I have to thank them for assisting me in continuing such an unusual profession."

In 2019, Rakibul will participate in the Dhaka Challenge 2019 Duathlon, Delhi International Triathlon 2019 Duathlon and Powerman Malaysia 2019. However, his aim is to ultimately prepare himself to qualify and compete in the 2021 Powerman World Championship.

Mostafa Shabuj is The Daily Star's Bogura correspondent.

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