As a pace bowler, Ritu Akter could have used her height, extracted bounce from the pitch and work her way up to the national team, but she had to leave the sport due to a lack of support from her family. The 11th-grade student however did not leave sport altogether and made a big splash in another discipline with a record in the high jump event of the Bangabandhu 44th National Athletics Championships at the Bangabandhu National Stadium yesterday.
Ritu, from Bangladesh Army, cleared 1.7 metres to eclipse the previous record of 1.68 metres set by former footballer Umme Hafsa Rumki in 2019.
"Before the championships, I had cleared the national high jump thrice in training and [coach] Mehedi Hasan sir spurred me on to carry that into the national meet. My target was to win the gold along with a national record. I just repeated it [training] in the championships. With my height, I believe I can clear more than I did today," said the five-feet-nine-inches tall height Ritu, who had won gold in the high jump in 2018 junior championships and won a bronze medal in the Summer Athletics Championships in 2019.
"I was worried about Umme Hafsa Rumki, but I was confident that I could overcome her after what I did in training," said Ritu.
"I started playing cricket in Gaibandha before being selected for Mirpur Boys Club [in the First Division Women's Cricket League] for two years in 2016 and 2017 and doing well but I was not getting support from my family because I had to stay away from them. Later, I thought I could do better in athletics because of my height. I also participated in the high jump at school level and won a gold medal. One day, I came to the Bangabandhu Stadium here to watch the junior athletics and then decided to participate in athletics and I won the gold medal in my first meet," said Ritu.
Meanwhile, Mohammad Ismail and Shirin Akter defended their crowns in their respective 100m sprints. Ismail clocked 10.55 seconds to win his third successive gold in national athletics championships while Shirin reached new heights to win her 11th consecutive gold medal in women's 100m sprint. She took 11.8 seconds to touch the line.
"I had to face a lot of obstacles during the pandemic and I am really happy to retain the title of fastest man. I am now looking forward to bettering my time in the upcoming Bangladesh Games," said Ismail who made a national record in 100m sprint in January 2019 with a timing of 10.2 seconds (hand-timing) before retaining the gold in next the national championships in Chattogram by clocking 10.4 seconds.
"It is possible to win gold from South Asian Games because those who competed in 100m sprint in the last SA Games were not extraordinary; they were ahead of us by only 0.2 seconds. If we are given training abroad, we can make up the gap."
"I am happy with my timing. The athletes of services teams have been in training during the pandemic, so everyone is trying and I am also trying in my way with Bangladesh Navy providing me all types of facilities," said Shirin.