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Olympic Scholarship programme yields naught for Bangladesh

Sports Desk: Despite five Bangladeshi sportspersons training under the Olympic Solidarity Paris 2024 Scholarship programme since September 2022, none of them are eligible to compete in the upcoming Paris Olympics, scheduled for July 26 to August 11 in France. The scenario raises questions about the selection process and effectiveness of the scholarship programme in improving athletes’ performance on the global stage. Among the Bangladesh sportspersons headed for the upcoming world event, Archer Sagor Islam earned his spot in Paris on his own merit by advancing to the semifinals of the Final Olympic Quota tournament in Turkey earlier this month.

Meanwhile, shooter Robiul Islam, sprinter Imranur Rahman, and swimmers Samiul Islam Rafi and Sonia Akhter received wild card entries to participate in the world’s largest multi-sport event. The Olympic Scholarship programme, launched to hone the skills of athletes from least-developed countries, saw the Bangladesh Olympic Association (BOA) awarding five scholarships to the Bangladesh Archery Federation and the Bangladesh Shooting Sports Federation.

The archery federation awarded scholarships to Hakim Ahmed Rubel, Abdur Rahman Alif, and Diya Siddique, while the shooting federation initially awarded scholarships to shooters Rabbi Hasan Munna and Nafisa Tabassum, who were later replaced by Kamrul Nahar Koly and Shaira Arefin. However, none had received wild cards from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to take part in the Paris Olympics. It has been learned that IOC provided USD 1250-1550 per athlete per month for training over the last 23 months, but none of them showed sufficient improvement to qualify for the Paris Olympics. When asked whether the selection of the athletes was flawed, BSSF member Mustaque Wise said, “There were no mistakes in selecting the shooters.

We initially selected two male shooters based on their performance but, due to their poor performance, later replaced them with female shooters. We don’t know on what basis Robiul Islam was awarded the wild card, but Shaira’s performance has been better.” Bangladesh Archery Federation (BAF) general secretary Kazi Razib Uddin Ahmed Chapal said, “There is no relation between Sagor and the scholarship. We awarded the scholarships based on the archers’ performance.

There is also a record of scholarship archers not getting wild cards.” He also added that since Sagor directly qualified for the Paris Olympics, no wild card was awarded to Bangladesh. During the preceding Tokyo Olympics, seven athletes – archers Ruman Sana and Beauty Roy, shooters Shakil Ahmed, Risalatul Islam Abdullah Hel Baki, Atika Hasan, and swimmer Ariful Islam – trained under the Olympic Scholarship programme. However, only three of them got the opportunity to participate in the Tokyo Olympics — Ruman Sana, who qualified directly for the Tokyo Olympics, Abdullah Hel Baki and Ariful Islam — along with three other athletes in swimmer Junayna Ahmed, sprinter Zahir Raihan, and archer Diya Siddique.

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