Saiful Islam Rasel, popularly known as 'Rasel the Seahorse', became the first Bangladeshi to complete a two-way crossing of the 16.1 km Bangla Channel in the Bay of Bengal, on March 29, 2021. The competition was arranged by Shwaroz Adventure to celebrate the golden jubilee of Bangladesh's independence.
This year, there were four other swimmers from Bangladesh— Shamsuzzaman Arafat, Moniruzzaman, Rabbi Rahman, and Ershad Hossain Morshed— who attempted a double cross, but stopped midway. Rasel has crossed the Bangla Channel thrice before in 2018, 2019, and 2020, respectively. He broke the record of the fastest cross in 2018, with a time of three hours, eight minutes and seven seconds, while his previous best time stood at three hours and forty minutes.
Rasel won inter-school swimming competitions in 2001 and 2002, before moving on to divisional and national level tournaments. As a student of the Department of Soil, Water and Environment at Dhaka University (DU), he led his swimming team to inter-varsity tournament glory in 2019. After that, he came to be known as 'Seahorse' among his peers.
"Another turning point for me came in 2016, when I participated in a talent hunt organised by Bangladesh Navy and the Swimming Federation from my university and made it to the top 160, among thousands of swimmers," Rasel added.
Rasel's family plays a vital role in his journey, and always supports him through thick and thin. His brothers also have a demonstrated history in sports. Rasel further expressed his regards for Md Shahjahan Ali, Director of Department of Physical Education, DU, who guided him throughout his university life.
"Shahjahan sir was my coach and mentor. Everything I did related to swimming at my university was according to his advice, and he was always encouraging," says Rasel.
Right now, Rasel has an international competition, "Ocean Man" lined up for him with full sponsorship. The event is going to take place in Bali, Indonesia, where swimmers from 50 to 60 countries will be participating. "Ocean Man", which was supposed to be held in June this year, was postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic. When it takes place, Rasel will be the third Bangladeshi to compete in it.
Moving forward, Rasel dreams of crossing the seven toughest channels in the world, including the English Channel.
The author is a freelance journalist. Write to her at email@example.com