Teenage sprinter Saiful Islam Khan Sunny hogged the limelight on the first day of the NRB Commercial Bank 13th Summer Athletics Championships by dethroning Shariful Islam in men's 200m sprint at the Bangabandhu National Stadium yesterday.
Saiful, participating in his second senior meet since winning a silver medal in the same event in the 2016 National Athletics Championships, clocked 21.66 seconds (hand-time) to beat Shariful by 0.14 seconds. The country's fastest man Mezbah Uddin Ahmed clocked 22.00 seconds to take third position.
With only one month's preparation under BKSP coach Abdullah Hel Kafi, Saiful, representing Bangladesh Jail on a contract basis, stunned all to be crowned champion. However, his feat is no surprise as he had earlier set two national records in 100m (10.53 seconds) and 200m (21.60 seconds) in the Junior National Athletics Championships in 2015.
“I am really happy to win the first gold medal in my second meet at senior level because I am not playing for as long as Mezbah bhai. I came into athletics in 2012,” said Saiful, who just passed his SSC exams from Bangladesh Krira Shikkha Protisthan this year.
“I was doubtful about producing a good result because I started training late after finishing the exams but Kafi sir inspired me and I followed his instructions perfectly during the one-month training,” said the lad from Brahmanbaria, who recently took part in the 2nd Asian Youth Athletics Championship in Thailand where he qualified for the 200m semifinals with a timing of 22.50 seconds (electronic board).
Saiful dreams of competing in the South Asian (SA) Games in 2019 and has urged the federation to arrange long-term training for the athletes under the guidance of a foreign coach.
“As the SA Games is still one-and-a-half years away, the federation should start long-term training from now on with athletes who have good timing and possibility of winning medals. Though the local coaches are good, it would be better to appoint a foreign coach,” opined Saiful.
Meanwhile, in women's 200m sprint, Sohagi Akter won her maiden gold with a timing of 25.10 seconds while Jakia Sultana and Ayesha Akter finished second and third by clocking 25.60 and 25.90 seconds respectively.
Sohagi, too, urged long-term training to break the SA Games medal-drought. She asked authorities to send athletes to international meets in a bid to improve their timing.
“If we can participate in international meets regularly and put up consistent performances, then it will be possible to win medal in SA Games. Besides, we also need long-term training as there is no alternative to that in order to get results,” said Sohagi.
In the day's other events, Mohammad Al Amin (men's 1500m), Sumi Akter (women's 1500m), Irin Akter (women's long jump), Shrabani Mallik (women's shot put), Mohammad Nuruzzaman (marathon), M Sajib Hossain (men's high jump) and M Alamgir (men's 400m) won gold medals.
Meanwhile, Lily Akter, an athlete from Rajbari, fell sick after completing the women's 200m sprint heat in the morning. She was immediately rushed to Dhaka Medical Collage by deputy minister Arif Khan Joy's vehicle as there were no ambulances available at the stadium.
The organisers however claimed that the ambulance was kept outside the stadium and they did send Lily to the hospital on the minister's instruction. Lily was recovering at the Sultana Kamal Women's Sports Complex, it has been learnt.