Diya Siddique took part in the Archery Federation’s talent hunt in 2018. That’s where I first saw her, before that I didn’t even know her name. Through her performance, she earned a spot in the team. Winning a gold medal on international debut is no mean feat. In the Archery Solidarity Championship held in Tongi in 2019, she shocked everyone by winning five matches in a row. She held onto that consistency and gradually became a dependable name for Bangladesh.
Together we have taken part in doubles events in international archery competitions. We won the silver medal in Recurve mixed double’s event in last year’s World Cup in Switzerland. Seldom archers from Bangladesh qualify for a final in a global tournament. So, winning a silver medal in the double’s event was a huge deal for us.
Diya’s best quality and her biggest strength is that she is always in a jolly mood. There is no way to tell if she is going through any hardship. In the beginning, when she wouldn’t make it into the team, she used to cry by herself. Junior archers would get selected to go abroad while Diya would get overlooked. I could see that she would be hurt . She used the negative things people would say about her to further fuel her desire to make it into the national team. She is a very hard working girl.
The team’s best male and female archers take part in the Recurve mixed team event. In domestic and international competitions, I have partnered with Eti Khatun and Sraboni Akter. But I have played the most with Diya. I feel that my understanding is the best with Diya. Because there have been times when she has scored higher than me when the team needed it and I had failed to deliver. On many occasions, the team won because of her brilliant performance in crucial situations.
In the last SA Games (South Asian Games), we achieved a clean sweep in archery. We won gold in all 10 archery events in the Games. But Diya wasn’t selected for that team. She was very sad about that. At that time, she was with the squad but wasn’t scoring well. Many had started saying that Diya is finished. But she took on the challenge. She proved all of them wrong through her performances.
We took part in the Tokyo Olympics together. We knew, if we score well in the preliminary stage then we can qualify for the main competition and together Diya and I, achieved that milestone in Bangladesh’s sporting history. No one from Bangladesh had qualified for the main competition in an Olympic event before us. Diya and I did that in archery. I don’t know if I can ever win an Olympic medal, but I will never give up hope. Diya also has the same goal.
Diya carries a special arrow in her quiver. After shooting the arrows, normally, we bring back the arrows ourselves. This is the norm in domestic and international competitions. In international competitions, usually, there is no way to make out from a distance who from the Bangladesh team is shooting right now. Everyone wears the same coloured jersey. But Diya is different. She is easily recognisable. In our quivers, we only keep arrows. But in Diya’s quiver, she carries an extra arrow, which has the Bangladesh flag tied to it. When we see the red and green flag from a distance, we know that’s our Diya. We have the Bangladesh flag in our jersey. But Diya is not satisfied with just that. She loves to carry an extra flag while competing. My dream is that one day the Bangladesh flag will wave proudly in the Olympics through Diya.
* Ruman Shana is archer, Archery World Cup silver medallist
*This appeared in the print and online edition of Prothom Alo and has been rewritten for the English edition by Ashfaq-Ul-Alam Niloy.