My swimmers will be better than me

Mahfuza KhatunShamsul Haque

Mahfuza Khatun (Shila) holds a unique record in Bangladesh's sports. She won two individual gold medals in 50 and 100 metre breaststroke events at the same edition of the South Asian Games (SA Games).

She is also the only female gold medal winning swimmer of Bangladesh in SA games. Mahfuza, who achieved all those records in 2016, is set with a new goal of training swimmers. She has joined the Bangladesh national swimming team as assistant coach.

She started working on 6 June at the National Swimming Pool at Mirpur ahead of the Asian Games scheduled to take place at Hangzhou in China in September-October.

In her new endeavour, Mahfuza wants just one thing- prepare even better swimmers than herself. She talked about her goals and many other things to the Prothom Alo.


Won a gold medal for the country abroad. You must have the same goal as the coach.

Of course. If I cannot achieve more as a coach than I had achieved as a player, what is the justification of this job! I want my swimmers to become better than me. I started working as a coach in Bangladesh Navy after finishing my playing career in 2021 by playing in Bangladesh Games. I prepared myself in the last few days. It is not a job for the sake of it. I want to contribute something to the country as a coach.


Are there any talented swimmers?

Yes, we have. Mukta, Anny, Anna, Soniya, Marium are good. Having trained the women's team in the last few days I have spotted some talents. We need to give them facilities. After 2016 for the first time such a big contingent of 12 girls got a call along with 13 boys. We are five coaches- Abdul Hamid, Mahbubur Rahman, Karar Samedul, Anik Islam and myself.


Had you prior interest to become a coach?

From way before…Bangladesh Navy presented me the opportunity. After ending my career as a player they endowed the responsibility of coaching upon me. You know, our Navy team is tantamount to the national team.

We won all 19 gold medals in the 2021 Bangabandhu Bangladesh Games. We won 18 out of 19 gold medals in last year’s services cup. I am taking care of the team. I see no professional female swimming coach in Bangladesh. I thought, let me come forward. I completed a 21-day level 1 coaching course.

Who is your favourite coach?

Bangladesh national team's former South Korean coach Park Tae Gun. I learnt a lot from him. Apart from him I also like the coaching plans of Mahbub vai, Jewel vai.


Which one is harder-- playing or coaching?

Playing is a lot tougher (smile). Coaches do not have to undergo rigorous training like the players. Coaches have to do less physical work but a coach has to think in 10 different ways for 10 different swimmers and faces more mental pressure. Coaches have to prepare practice schedules and to be eligible to do that properly one may need 7-8 years. I used to be surprised how Park could prepare practice schedules for so many swimmers.


How are you feeling working at the national camp?                                                                                                     

In coaching the point of view is altogether different to that as a player. As a coach one cannot say anything abruptly. One has to be careful about the language used and strictly follow professional behaviour. During my playing career such things had less impacts, I could say anything anytime.


You completed masters in Mass Communication and Journalism from Chittagong University and once said you want to come to journalism.

I said, If I ever get the chance I will do journalism. But swimming is in my blood so I stayed with it. When I studied journalism then there were not many chances like these days. But even then sports journalism was very popular. A female sports journalist said, "You come to sports journalism as you can speak well." I could work in print or electronic journalism if I wanted.


Shahjahan Ali (Rony), the gold medalist swimmer of 2004 Islamabad SAAF Games is your life partner? How is your conjugal life?

Excellent. We got married in 2016. I got a lot of support from my mother in law. Rony also supports me a lot. He serves me food after I return from coaching and thanks to his support I could continue swimming up to 32-year age and now coaching, Alhamdulillah.