Some say, they are foolish. They say, yes, we are. That’s an angry reply from a bunch of young Bangladeshi adventure sports lovers. They are happy to stay foolish, stay hungry for more adventure and stay out of the claustrophobic society where success is nothing but wealth. Without any patronization from the government, family and workplace, these few people are risking their lives to enjoy the premium adrenaline rush in their blood, which is way more intoxicating.
We hardly heard about Mountain Biking, Ironman Triathlon, Mixed Martial Arts, Kayaking or motorsports practitioners from Bangladesh. In the long list of Olympics sports, a good number of games are being practiced in Bangladesh. But most of the organizations exist on paper, or barely carry out the functions. But when it comes to the turn of going to take part in some sports meet in abroad, a long queue shows up with fictitious success. Bangladesh, the most populated country without any Olympic medal is one of the true believers of Olympic sermon, “taking part is important than triumph”. But in the same delta bay, some young people defied the perpetuals and chalked out their own way of life. They are playing the risky, painstaking, hardworking games not for any medals or appreciation. Just for the love of the game!
Mixed Martial Arts is a billion-dollar industry in the world now. The Ultimate Fight Championship or UFC is a widely viewed TV program around the globe. Stars like Ronda Rousey, Anderson Silva, Royce Gracie, Randy Couture are as famous like Hollywood stars. They inspired some young lads in Bangladesh as well to punch and kick like them. The Mixed Martial Arts Association is formed few years back and young guys are shedding their blood and sweet in the pits to hone the striking, grappling and take down skills to become an accomplished MMA Fighter. The sport is relatively new in the scene but now have a booming craze among fitness freaks and Gym-junkies.
Sliding down through the narrow trails from uphill on a bicycle, sounds amazing. It is also a sport where skill, precision and the nerve are needed. The highly challenging sports need peak physical and mental fitness. A group of Mountain Biking enthusiasts under the banner of MTB Bangladesh are trying to spread the charm of this bike game among the youths. Recently, they had their first grand event which was the warm up event of the Asian Enduro Challenge Warm up. A series of three challenges across the year will determine the Champion from Bangladesh at the end of the year who will go to Nepal for the main event of Enduro challenge. Starting with only few, now the MTB Bangladesh is a relatively big community with active racers. Mountain Bikes are expensive, costing from taka 1.5 Lakhs to higher. It also needs some protection gears as well. Despite all the odds, a good number of youths are engaging themselves in this heart pumping sport. MTB Bangladesh has a practice pit, just on the outskirts of Dhaka where they built artificial terrains, slopes, ditches and obstacles to carry out the training.
Tony Stark built the Ironman Armor which made him superhero and Robert Downey Jr. played the role of this playboy bilinear philanthropist which sets the motion for Marvel Cinematic Universe. But In the world of sports, Ironman has a different meaning, which is not fancy. Ironman is title, given to those who completes 2.4 miles of open water swimming,112 miles of cycle ride and a full marathon run of 26.22 mile within just 16 or 17 hours. The game evolved from a long running hot debate among runners and swimmers in a US NAVY base in Hawaii. Navy Commander John Collins came up with a copy of Sports Illustrated Magazine, which had an article about Belgian Cyclist Eddy Mercx. The article was about fitness and oxygen intake and claimed that Eddy is the fittest in terms of inhaling oxygen. Later, a challenge was thrown among the members of the US NAVY at that base, to complete the course of swimming running and cycling. The winner will be called as IRONMAN, which was termed colloquially. But everything fell into pieces, some members of navy seals and long-distance runners from force took up the challenge finished the course within the time which gave birth of one of the most physically challenging sports; Triathlon. From Sydney Olympics 2000, triathlon is inducted into the Olympics, but the distance is a bit lesser than ironman triathlon, which is 1.5 kilometres swimming, 40 KM cycling and 10KM run.
The sport is getting some practitioners in Bangladesh slowly. Last year, 3 Bangladeshi individuals competed for the Ironman Title in the Langkawi Ironman event and finished within time. Abdulla al Imran, Imtiaz Ilahi and Muntasir Sami; there triathletes from Bangladesh had to prepare themselves for this perilous event for at least 3-4 years. Starting from physical preparation to financial management, they all did the tasks single handedly. They were bullied by the society for wasting big amounts to buy bicycle, to register for Ironman and many more. Humiliated by various companies where they knocked for sponsorship, teased by friends for running and challenged by the airport authorities while bringing back the bicycles from Malaysia, the IRONMANs of Bangladesh endured all and their race is not over even after they touch the finishing tape.
Kayak is a small boat which was used to travel across water. But now, it’s an Olympic sport as well. This boating activity is gradually gaining popularity among adventure tourists. Hanium Maria Raka is a scuba diver, adventurer and trekker. She is the first woman to cross the Bangla Channel (The waterbody between Saint Martin Islands and Teknaf) with her Kayak. Fazley Rabbi, her husband is also a keen trekker and traveler. Together they learned the art of Kayaking in Nepal. Now Kayaking is popular in Kaptai Lake and Kornophully river area.
Motorsport is another expensive hobby and slowly it’s spreading among niche clientele. Avik Anwar and Affan Sadat Safwan won the local rallycross challenge and took part in a rally in India. In 2013, Mahfuzur Rahman Tushar became the first Bangladeshi to officially participate in a Formula racing competition. He has since returned for F4 races in India with the help of sponsorship from Shah Cement. He soon began to participate in go-kart races held at Fantasy Kingdom. His very first time out, Tushar came in 3rd – that too without having had any practice on the track. But he chased the dream and become the first formula driver from Bangladesh.
All the above mention sports need superior physical, mental skills and financial support. Bikes for Triathlon, mountain biking is expensive. MMA needs proper nutrition and training; Race cars are expensive and so are the Kayaks. People who are practicing these games get a little support from the society for these sports. Rather, they are criticized. But they keep on going against all the odds. Maybe they are driven by the premium rush for speed, adventure, that adrenaline pump in fraction of second between life and death. Which is a bigger drug than anything.