Three cheers for Bangladesh

Dear readers,
In this 15th Anniversary Supplement we tried to go full circle when it comes to mentioning about every major sporting success during this period. We have talked about Niaz Murshed's becoming the region's first Grand Master. We have analysed a lot about cricket and football as these are the areas where Bang-ladesh really stand a very good chance of making international impressions every now and then. We also mentioned about Asif Hossain's big Commonwealth Games feat. Now we feel that had we not published the following three reports there would have been something missing. "Three cheers for Bangladesh" will remind you of most probably our best day in SAF Games. Sharmin was the first Bangla-deshi woman to win an individual gold medal while Karar Mizan by far being the country's best swimmer.

In a welcome change Bangladesh emerged from nowhere to collect a handful of golds on the sixth day of the seventh South Asian Federation (SAF) Games here on December 23 in 1995.

On a bright sunny day, Saiful Alam Chowdhury Rinki won the individual air pistol event to herald a wonderful dawn for the success-lorn country before Mahabubul Alam ran the race of his life to win the men's 200-metre sprint in a photo finish at the giant Nehru Stadium in the afternoon. Rinki then inspired his teammates, Firoz Hossain and Syed Asbab Ali, to together pick up the team event title with their air pistols for Bangladesh's third gold of the day.

And, as if that was not enough, an enviable performance by our hockey team to go down fighting against world champions Pakistan by the barest of margins (2-3), a silver in the 4x100 metres sprint relay and, above all, a wonderful exhibition of modern football by the national booters against defending champions Nepal was more than enough to end the living nightmare of failures of the last few days.

At the remote Veerapuram Shooting Range, Rinki, who had captured the gold in the same event two years back in the Sixth SAF Games held in Dhaka, defended the title in style.

He scored 584 points from sixty shots to establish a new Games record eclipsing his previous mark of 580, while Firoz Hossain and Asbab Ali, the other participants from Bangladesh, took the silver and bronze respectively.

But the most scintillating performer on the day was Mahabubul Alam, who earned the first gold for Bangladesh in athletics by winning the 200m clocking 21.22 seconds.

The 22-year-old unheralded youngster from Kishoreganj was locked in a heady clash with Sri Lanka's Sugatth Tillekeratne for a neck-and-neck run before the Bangladeshi sprinter headed for glory with a dream finish, it was so close finish that the electronic scoreboard took about fifteen minutes before declaring a winner enacting a wild jubilation in the Bangladesh tent.

"I was not confident enough to win the gold. But once my coach pushed me I put up my best," said an elated Mahabub to the press.

The stocky built athlete, for whom it was the first major success in any international meet further added that he was extremely happy for winning the gold.

However, if it was the finest moment of Mahabub's life then for a watchful onlooker the most sought after moment was when the flag of the nation was hoisted up above everyone with the national anthem echoing in the spectacular Nehru Stadium for the first time.

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