Urmi Akter was crowned champion of the women's singles badminton event in the Bangabandhu 9th Bangladesh Games after the 10th-grader came back from a set down against Bristi Khatun to win the final 2-1 at the Shaheed Tajuddin Ahmed Indoor Stadium yesterday.
Bristi won the first set 23-21, before Urmi, representing Bangladesh Ansar, staged a strong comeback and took the remaining sets 21-13 and 21-14 respectively.
The 18-year-old shuttler has been crowned champion four times in different age groups during the Junior National Badminton Championships since 2016, but never crossed the quarterfinals in senior national championships.
"I had regularly been in practice during the pandemic because I was really serious about the Bangladesh Games. I worked hard for the past year. The Pabna DSA did a tremendous job for us because they kept their facilities open so that we could keep continuing practice," Urmi told The Daily Star. "Pabna DSA not only provided a coach, but also valuable sporting gear. Faruque sir, a member of the Pabna DSA, also gave me a scholarship worth Tk 5,000 per month so I could improve my diet."
However, Urmi regretted that her own district sports association in Khulna did not provide anything for her when she sought daily conveyance of Tk 50 to 60 or a bicycle as transport. She then moved to Pabna in late 2017 to avail the facilities there.
Urmi also faced questions about whether the absence of the country's top two shuttlers, Shapla Akter and Alina Sultana had helped her strike gold more easily.
"I am actually upset by their absence. But both of them asked me about the Games. It could have been better had I got them on the way to winning the gold medal," said Urmi, whose father runs a small hotel in Labanchura.
"I started the campaign low on confidence but it grew the Games progressed even though I have nothing to lose as a junior player. My parents played a great role in bringing me to this stage because they supported me by mentally and financially."
The teenager also demanded to resumption of the league to ensure the future of shuttlers.
"I never got any leagues in my career. Now there are no tournaments or leagues and no way to earn money to help our family. I think the federation should provide salaries to the players who are representing the country," said Urmi.