Humaira Akhter Antara on winning gold for Bangladesh in Karate at 2019 SA Games

“I wanted more out of life. I wanted more out of myself. I wanted to do something I like.” – Humaira Akhter Antara

Since I was born, I was always led to believe that the definition of sports can only be defined through “Cricket” or as my neighbourhood kids would say “Kiriket”. Boarding the hype train with the unconditional support from my father, a businessman, I soon found out that the glorified sport was not my cup of tea. With barrages of critique thrown at me such as, “he throws like a girl” or “a girl can do better,” made me lean towards the world of ones and zeros. Falling in love with the colourful world of computer and console games even to this day in my late-twenties, shut up, it’s not weird, it never gets old for me. However, few thoughts lingered in my mind, what if I did not board the hype train? What if I was good in any other forms of athletic pursuits like Karate, Fencing, Archery or Weightlifting? 

A decade later, my eyes grew wide as my newsfeed got flooded with the results of 2019 South Asian Games. Humaira Akhter Antara wins gold in Karate, Mabiya Akhtar gets gold in Weightlifting, Fatema Mujib brings gold in Fencing, and Eti Khatun scores gold in Archery. By the time I read the third news, it was apparent to me what should be my next cover story. Without further ado, the first athlete I tracked down was the 20-year-old Karateka Humaira Akhter Antara.

At first glance, anyone might take Humaira to be just another ordinary girl going about her life. However, once she donned her Karategi (formal Japanese name for the traditional uniform used for Karate) on, she started emitting an aura, nothing short, of a warrior. The only character I could relate Humaira to was with none other than Mulan, the warrior princess from the Disney movie. 

Being a Madrasa student until the seventh grade, her aspiration to be an athlete was always an idea not favourable for her parents. “They wanted me to focus on my studies more and get a decent job by the time I complete my studies,” she goes on to share, “I wanted more out of life. I wanted more out of myself. I wanted to do something I like.”

Humaira always wanted to achieve things on her own accord. She even convinced her parents that self-defence is mandatory for her safety and wellbeing. “I made them understand that I cannot be safe only by wearing a veil or a Burqa. I needed to know how to defend myself. That’s how I got myself into Karate in 2013,” she adds.

The world of Karate requires discipline, will power, patience and burning desire to grow constantly. “I love the disciplined life; it always shows me what I need to do next,” the Karateka said.

It was only a matter of time when her seniors at the Karate club noticed the spark of greatness in her. The twin brothers, Sun and Moon senseis, nurtured her latent potential. Setting her eyes on the Nationals and going through rigorous training, she was able to win three gold medals in a single event. A similar record was made 16 years ago. However, this was the second coming of a prodigy. After that achievement, Humaira started getting support from her family and aimed higher in the sky. “My mother is the one who motivates me the most. My teammates and my mentors believe that I can do better. I know what to expect out of myself.” 

Before participating at the 2019 SA Games, Humaira gained the experience of playing on an international platform from the AKF tournament; the Asian Karatedo Championships are the highest level of competition for sport Karate in Asia. This exposure gave Humaira enough determination and will power to compete in the SA Games. “Participating in those events allowed me to understand how to improve myself.”

During the initial rounds of the tournament, the 20-year old Karateka had her eyes locked at the prize, “I had to win the gold medal, for my family, friends and most importantly for Bangladesh. I was representing my country, I had to make her proud at any cost,” she states. By the third day of the tournament, Humaira bagged a gold medal. “It was overwhelming for me. I sacrificed many things, including my studies for this sport. I missed my university admission tests just because of the SA Games preparation,” she adds by dwelling in her recent memories. 

As her closing statement, she stated that it is imperative for women and young girls to learn self-defence. “No incident comes knocking at your door; you have to be prepared. Karate is a sport of honesty and discipline. We all need these qualities in life,” she concludes. 

I would be really happy if my friends read this article and realise that girls can play better and I’d be lucky to play sports like them.