The small village of Amla has become a hub for young swimmers who have earned fame at the national and international levels.
The village in Mirpur upazila of south-western Kushtia district has produced more than a hundred well-reputed swimmers over the past decade.
Several young girls and boys were seen swimming as part of their training in the pond on the Amla Government College premises despite severe cold when this author went there on 9 January.
Records show, several of the young swimmers from Amla have secured 10-15 national awards.
“More than half of the best swimmers of the nation come from Amla -nothing could be more satisfying than this,” said Amirul Islam, who initiated the swimming training at Amla around 1989 with 10-12 learners.
However, there is no swimming pool or any modern equipment for training in the area till date. "They have become famous swimmers, taking training at local ponds," said another local coach Marzina Khatun.
Shumi Khatun is one of those who proved to be indomitable swimmers. She has won 15 national-level gold medals.
Many of those, who learnt how to swim, in the ponds and canals scattered around the village, are now performing.
Rubel Rana, Anik Islam, Asif Reza, Nazma Khatun, Sima Khatun and Subarna Khatun from Bangladesh Navy are all from Amla, who gained national and international recognition.
Swimmers like Sabura Khatun, Laboni Akter Jui, Laboni Akhtar, Babita Khatun and Jewel Ahmed -- also from there -- competed from the Bangladesh Army.
In 2007, in the 22nd national age-group swimming championship, Bangladesh Ansar-VDP and BJMC (Bangladesh Jute Mills Corporation) top ranked in the award list, thanks to the performance of the swimmers of Amla. Rubel Rana, hailing from Amla, won a gold medal in the 9th South Asian Games in Islamabad.
Again, in the 2009 national age-group swimming championship, the swimmers created 13 national records and won 47 gold medals. Babita Khatun top ranked among the country’s female swimmers, winning 11 gold medals and scoring 2 new records.
From 2010 to 2013, swimmers of Amla secured 50 gold medals and made several records.
About 200 swimmers including 60 women are being trained at Amla Swimming Club, Sagarkhali Swimming Club, Lalon Shah Swimming Club, Garai Swimming Club and Meherpur Swimming Club in cooperation with Bangladesh Ansar-VDP.
Female swimmers are doing well. Sabura Khatun from Amla has won gold medal in national championship. She is now serving Bangladesh Army. Another two swimmers, Babita Khatun and Chameli Akhter, are serving in Bangladesh Ansar and VDP.
Local guardians consider swimming to be an opportunity to address unemployment as 79 swimmers have so far been recruited in the national forces.
*This piece, originally published in Prothom Alo print edition, has been rewritten in English by Nusrat Nowrin and Farjana Liakat.