Mohammad Jahir Rayhan achieved not only his personal best but also more than fulfilled the country’s expectations when he reached the semi-finals in the 400m boys' event of the IAAF World U-18 Championship 2017 in Nairobi, Kenya on Wednesday. The competition is one of the world’s biggest for the young athletes.
Jahir clocked 48s to cross 400m, which indicates sheer improvement, compared to his previous personal bests. The feat not only gave Jahir his best possible target in the event but also surprised veteran BKSP coach Abdullah Hel Kafi and the country’s fastest man, Mezbah Ahmed.
It should be mentioned that any timing below 50s is usually considered good in the 400m event, let it be at any level. What makes Jahir's achievement all the more remarkable is that no Bangladesh athlete, across any age level, has registered such timing.
The Bangladesh athlete took part in the event’s first heat of the day where he finished third. He beat fourth-placed Sri Lanka athlete Thiran Kalavitigoda Pathirannahalage (48.72s) against whom he lost in the qualifiers less than two months ago.
Jahir and Thiran became friends during their stay in Thailand for the qualifiers, which was held in Bangkok from May 20-23 this year, informed Kafi, adding that the Lankan athlete had been training for eight-nine months while Jahir has been preparing for the event for only four and a half months.
Jahir took 49.12s to cross the finish line in the heat in Bangkok, which was enough to seal a spot in the final event's top 32. He later got sick and the physio suggested that it would be difficult for him to run in the next stage of the qualifiers but Jahir showed a lot of courage to put his country’s name in the starting list.
Hailing from BKSP, where he has been studying from class 7 to HSC 1st year, Jahir also participated in the qualifiers of his favourite event, the 200m sprint, but failed to post the required timing by only 0.04s. Kafi travelled with Jahir in Thailand but this time around, coach Motiul Alam accompanied his disciple.
“He has always been very promising. He has only been training for the last four and a half months but what he did is absolutely unbelievable. As a coach I’m surprised to see his timing of 48s. I told him to give his best in the heat, which matters the most. Semi-final is the result of his hard work and it matters less what he does in the next stage,” former fastest man Kafi told Dhaka Tribune.
A total of 33 athletes participated in five heats on Wednesday from where 24 players moved to the semi-finals splitting into three heats. Jahir will face some young promising athletes in the second heat of the semi-finals on Thursday evening.
Upon hearing Jahir’s timing, Mezbah expects Jahir to become the face of Bangladesh athletics in future. “This is very good timing for a Bangladeshi. He has improved a lot. Normally in the national championship, 49-50s is enough to win first place. This timing (48s) means he would be indomitable in the senior national athletics as well,” said the 25-year old athlete.
“When he joined BKSP, I was leaving the place. Making such timing at this young age is surprising. He is the future,” added Mezbah, mentioning another name, Anisur Rahman, who has similar talent but couldn’t try his luck due to sudden leg fracture.