You shared your immediate reaction after the victory. How are you feeling right now?
I can’t put it into words. I’m really happy.
Did you expect this success?
I had hopes that I would do well. My timing in 60m sprint was also good. I took part in this event in last year’s World Indoor championship. But I never thought I would win gold in Kazakhstan. You can say that it was beyond my expectations. Because the athletes from Japan, Thailand and Qatar were very good.
What did you do after returning to the hotel from the venue?
I spoke with the athletics federation’s general secretary Abdur Rakib Montu sir till 3:00am. We chatted about the country’s athletics. Sir said, I have to do even better. I said I will try my best do the best of my abilities. Then I went to sleep. By the way, the temperature here is minus 24 degrees. Our hotel is right by a river. Everything here has turned to ice. We are facing adverse weather.
You must be receiving many congratulatory messages…
Many, many. From Dhaka, I’ve received the congratulatory message of the honourable prime minister through the state minister for youth and sports. From England, my family members, friends everyone has congratulated me. My coach has also congratulated me. Many have sent me text messages, saying, ‘great achievement’, ‘you have made us proud’. Here, the competitors from Qatar, Japan, Pakistan, India, Hong Kong and other countries have also congratulated me. Others didn’t expect that an athlete from Bangladesh would win gold. They are all shocked. One of them asked me things like where do I live, what do I do. The officials from the Asian Athletics were also surprised.
No one from Bangladesh had anticipated that something like this could happen. Because usually, Bangladeshi athletes get eliminated from the heat in such competitions. You can be seen as an exception as you grew up in England though you have paternal roots in Sylhet. So, after winning gold unexpectedly has your confidence increased?
It definitely has. Before, I used to doubt myself and wonder can I accomplish this. I would perpetually go back and forth between feeling hopeful and despondent. Bangladeshi environment, culture, the people here– everything was brand new to me. When I would get overwhelmed, I would console myself by saying, just keep trying, one day you will get your reward. After this victory, I feel that I can do even better. I have that ability.
After reaching the final in the 100m sprint of last year’s Islamic Solidarity Games in Turkiye, you told Prothom Alo in an interview that you have to do two jobs in Sheffield, London as well as train. Is that problem still there?
Yes, I still have two jobs. One is my main occupation, which consumes eight hours a day. I work as an accountant at a financial institution. The other is a part-time job. It’s difficult for me to balance two jobs and carry on with athletics. But I have no other choice but to continue with my job. It’s a matter of livelihood. I have a wife and a child. I have to look after them. Surviving in England, the life there is not easy.
You have balanced two jobs and shone at the highest stage in Asia. Can you sustain such performance? You are nearing 30.
What’s more important than my age is that I’m still training two-three hours every day in the morning. I train for another two hours after my job. I have a coach in London. And I have the mental fortitude. No matter the difficulty, I never lose self-belief.
Then can we hope for a gold medal in the next South Asian Games (SA Games) from Imranur?
That’s my main goal. I want to win gold for Bangladesh in the SA Games. I’ve had this dream since October 2021, when I arrived in Bangladesh. For a long time, no one from Bangladesh has become the fastest man in the SA Games. My goal is to become the fastest man in South Asia. Bangladesh Athletics Federation (BAF) wants me achieve this success. And I want to bring success for Bangladesh in the SA Games, fly the country’s flag.
The date for the next SA Games hasn’t been fixed yet. What do you have coming up next?
There is nothing in the near future. The World Championship will take place in August. The Asian Games will happen in China in September-October. Hopefully, I will do well in those Games.
*This interview appeared in the print and online edition of Prothom Alo and has been rewritten for the English edition by Ashfaq-Ul-Alam Niloy