Saddam, the 24-year-old gymnast, will leave here for Baku in the early hours of Tuesday, along with his mentor and coach Nazrul Islam.
It will be Saddam’s first ever international Games outside the subcontinent after his first and only participation abroad came in 2010 during the Indo Bangla Games in Kolkata. At that time, he was a talented athlete at BKSP.
Saddam lost his parents before his first birthday, and he can’t recollect their identity or where he comes from. He grew up in an orphanage - Family for Children - in Uttara, Dhaka where BKSP coach Dulal Gomes spotted him and took him under his shoulders. The same person took him to BKSP when Saddam was 15 years old.
After spending five years at BKSP where he received his first lessons in gymnastics, Saddam joined Bangladesh Ansar and VDP and started achieving success in the national championship.
He enjoyed one of his finest moments thus far in the year 2015 when he won five gold medals, three silver and one bronze. He fought closely with the other gymnasts in 2016 but still managed to bag three golds, four silvers and one bronze.
Bangladesh do not boast necessary apparatus and facilities for gymnastics. What's more, there are no facilities available whatsoever for rhythmic and acrobatic gymnastics.
With very limited space and facilities, Saddam practises at the gymnasium of the National Sports Council in the capital city’s Paltan area. He has been preparing there for the last three months ahead of the Games.
“I have been practising hard in the last three months at NSC. My fitness status is better and my performance has also improved. I will get 15 days in Baku before the tournament begins, which I think will also be very important for me to adapt with the conditions,” Saddam told Dhaka Tribune on Monday.
He added that he spent 15 days in Jordan last year but the stint there barely helped him to improve.
Saddam claimed gold in floor, vault, rings, pommel horse and horizontal bar in 2015 but missed out on the last two events the following year.
“I think my strong sides are floor exercise and vault in table. I clinched gold in both the events for two straight years in the national championship. My prime focus in Baku will be on these two events,” said Saddam, also stating confidently that his only target is gold.
Nazrul was a part-time coach at the orphanage where Saddam grew up. He informed that Saddam was seven-eight years old when he started playing gymnastics.
“It will be very helpful for us to go there earlier. We will see how the the settings are there, on what instruments our gymnast have to perform. We don’t have training pits in Bangladesh, so we will need at least one week to adjust with the pits there,” said Nazrul.
He added, “Basic practice is done but overall preparation is still 90%. It will increase to 100% after training there for a few days.”