‘Ben­gal Tiger’ ready to pounce

The Myanmar Times - - Sport -

DUR­ING a child­hood spent re­triev­ing stray balls on a golf course near his slum in Dhaka, Sid­dikur Rah­man never even got to hear about the Olympics, let alone dream of com­pet­ing in them.

“When I was start­ing out, the Olympics was just not some­thing that I knew any­thing about,” re­calls the man who will be Bangladesh’s flag­bearer at next month’s open­ing cer­e­mony in Rio de Janiero.

“It’s only re­ally be­cause of my cad­die, who is from Malaysia, that I came to ap­pre­ci­ate quite how pres­ti­gious an event it is. He told me how I would make his­tory if I qual­i­fied, so then I got se­ri­ous about it.”

By fin­ish­ing in the top 60 in the Olympic rank­ing list at last week’s cut­off point, the 31-year-old Sid­dikur be­came the first Bangladeshi to qual­ify au­to­mat­i­cally for the world’s big­gest sport­ing event.

Bangladesh is the most pop­u­lous coun­try never to have won an Olympic medal and all pre­vi­ous en­trants have had to rely on wild­cards pro­vided by the In­ter­na­tional Olympic Com­mit­tee and other in­ter­na­tional sports bod­ies.

In a coun­try where cricket is king, the dearth of lo­cal par­tic­i­pants means the Olympics have tra­di­tion­ally strug­gled to at­tract much in­ter­est. Cov­er­age on the tele­vi­sion and in news­pa­pers is ex­tremely lim­ited.

Sid­dikur’s his­tory-mak­ing is even more note­wor­thy given his hum­ble ori­gins as the son of an au­torick­shaw driver who was brought up in one of the Bangladeshi cap­i­tal’s teem­ing slum neigh­bour­hoods.

When he was 10, he landed a job fer­ret­ing out balls that had landed in the rough at Dhaka’s pres­ti­gious Kur­mi­tola Golf Club (KGC).

As well as help­ing put food on the fam­ily ta­ble, the job kin­dled a love of the sport that has since brought him two ti­tles on the Asian Tour and earned him the nick­name as the ‘Tiger Woods of Ben­gal’.

The club al­lowed its ball-boys to play the game on ev­ery Mon­day and Sid­dikur used the op­por­tu­nity to show­case his tal­ent.

“As a boy, my only real am­bi­tion was to be­come a player as it was bet­ter than gath­er­ing balls,” Sid­dikur told AFP in an in­ter­view at the KGC.

“Then when I did start play­ing, I thought maybe if I can get a job on the pro­fes­sional tour in In­dia then that would be great – it could change my life.”

His early years as a pro­fes­sional were in­deed spent in In­dia and he joined the Asian Tour in 2009. He has since fin­ished in the top 10 of the tour’s Or­der Of Merit on three oc­ca­sions.

Many golfers – in­clud­ing the world’s top four Ja­son Day, Dustin John­son, Jor­dan Spi­eth and Rory McIl­roy – have de­cided not to com­pete in Rio where golf is mak­ing a come­back as an Olympics sport af­ter 112 years.

But for a player such as Sid­dikur, whose chances of win­ning a ma­jor are re­mote, the tour­na­ment rep­re­sents a chance of glory on a global stage that he wouldn’t miss for the world.

He ef­fec­tively se­cured his berth for Olympics by fin­ish­ing run­ner-up at a tour­na­ment in Mau­ri­tius ear­lier this year, a re­sult that he says has fu­elled his hopes of win­ning an ad­mit­tedly un­likely medal in Rio.

“My tar­get in Mau­ri­tius was to fin­ish in the top 10 or so, and that would mean I would go to the Olympics. But I came sec­ond and the same thing can hap­pen any time, for any player on any golf course,” he said.

“I have a good feel­ing about the Olympics and I am pre­par­ing my­self very nicely. I will try my best and I leave the rest to Almighty.” –

Pho­tos: AFP

Rh­man says he did not re­alise it was a his­tory-mak­ing op­por­tu­nity un­til his caddy men­tioned it. Golfer Sid­dikur Rah­man pre­pares to hit a drive dur­ing a prac­tice ses­sion at the Kur­mi­tola Golf Club in Dhaka. He’s the first Bangladeshi to qual­ify au­to­mat­i­cally for the Games.

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