Mohammad Ismail has longed dreamt of having an international standard training schedule. The four-time fastest male in Bangladesh didn’t have any way of acquiring such a schedule from an overseas coach. Eventually, he received his desired training schedule from a Japanese athlete named Lizuka Sota.

Sota, who won silver in the Rio Olympics, arrived in Dhaka last November during the celebration of 50 years of diplomatic relations between Bangladesh and Japan. There, upon Ismail’s request, Sota prepared one such schedule for him.

No just Ismail, every Bangladeshi athlete wants international standard training facilities. But most athletes don’t get that.

A large majority of Bangladesh’s athletes work for various service organisations. But most of those services don’t have synthetic tracks. The Bangladesh Army athletes train at the Banani Army Stadium, which has a synthetic track. But the other service teams like Navy, Air Force, Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB), Bangladesh Jail, Bangladesh Police train on grass fields.

Bangladeshi athletes don't get to train on synthetic tracks
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Four months back, Bangladesh Ansar laid a synthetic track at the Safipur Academy in Gazipur which hasn’t been officially inaugurated yet.

According to Bangladesh’s fastest woman and navy athlete Shirin Akter, there is no substitute to synthetic field for good performance, “In national and international competitions, we run on synthetic tracks. I had trouble training on grassy fields, that’s why I used to personally train at BKSP. Synthetic track is a must. This is one area where we are lagging behind.”

The Navy team sometimes trains at the Navy colony in Dhaka’s Shaheenbagh and at other times in Navy’s grass field in Khilkhet. The Air Force athletes train at the Bangabandhu Base ground in Kurmitola while the Police team trains at the Rajarbag Police Lines ground.

BGB athletes don’t have any training facility in Dhaka. They sometimes train in Dinajpur and sometimes in Bandarban. Only before the start of a competition, they are brought in at the BGB headquarters in Dhaka.

Bangladesh Jail team trains at the small ground in Kashimpur Central Jail. Sometimes, they get to train at the BKSP grounds.

Army, Navy, Air Force and BGB athletes have to undergo compulsory training right after joining.

Army athletes undergo arms and ammunition training and other related training in the first year after joining. The compulsory training for Navy athletes used to be six months long, now it has been brought down to one month. After the training, the Navy athletes begin athletics training under their designated sports control board.

Athletes believe they will do better if they are provided better training facilities
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Bangladesh Army’s sprinter Sushmita Ghosh said, “After undergoing the army’s professional training, we can’t immediately jump back to athletics even if you are fit. We have to wait for a while before we can return to the track.”

Moreover, many Army, Navy and Air Force athletes leave for United Nations (UN) peacekeeping missions at the middle of the career as an athlete. After the mission, many promising athletes lose their place in athletics.

High jumper Sajib Hossain, who won gold for Navy in the national competition, is currently in Kuwait as part of a UN mission.

Last December, when Sajib was in Bangladesh on vacation, he came to the Army Stadium to watch the national athletics. From the stands he said, “I tried hard to return to the national camp. But I couldn’t train properly. Now, after going to a UN mission, my financial situation is much more stable. But it’s unlikely that I would return to the field.”

Air Force athletes give preference to their professional training over regular athletics training. Hence, Air Force are lagging behind in the national athletics. The last Air Force sprinter to become the fastest man was Hafizur Rahman, back in 2011.

Air Force coach Ashraful Islam said, “We train on a grass field. Before a competition, we send a letter to the Army Stadium, seeking permission to train there. But we don’t always get that permission. Moreover, our athletes have to undergo three years of mandatory training. When an athlete undergoes that training, they almost forget about regular athletics training. It becomes difficult for them to recover from that. This affects their game.”

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Jail team’s athlete Imtiaz Hossain said, he doesn’t have any good place to train for shot put, a track and field event. Imtiaz trains at the ground adjacent the Bangabandhu International Conference Centre where the Dhaka International Trade Fair used to take place. He wants a proper ground for training.

“If I could’ve trained at a big ground, my performance would’ve been better. I often go to the old trade fair ground in the night and train there. Other than a ground, I’m also in need of a sponsor.”

*This report appeared in the print and online edition of Prothom Alo and has been rewritten for the English edition by Ashfaq-Ul-Alam Niloy