London 2012: Syque Caesar aims to bring Bangladesh glory

By Saj ChowdhuryBBC Sport
Bangladesh gymnast Syque Caesar

From A-grade college gymnast to Olympic-bound competitor - Syque Caesar's world has been radically transformed in the last 12 months.

The United States-born University of Michigan studentexternal-link was forced to change his plans for 2012 in April after receiving an invitation to represent Bangladeshexternal-link at London 2012.

The country is the most populous nation (164.4m) not to have won a medal at the Games. Although Caesar faces a tough task to end this unwanted distinction, he hopes his inclusion may lead to a change in fortunes for his ancestral home.

"Bangladesh loves sport," he told BBC Sport. "My father used to play for the national football team and football was the country's main passion. That died down and now the country loves cricket.

"Gymnastics isn't really such a popular sport around the globe anyway, but hopefully I'll be the guy that kick-starts a programme in the country.

"Bangladesh is willing to do everything to get as many athletes as it can to the Olympics, but having the resources to prepare athletes for the Games is quite new for them."

Caesar, who started gymnastics at the age of six, rose to prominence in 2011 when he collected a hatful of medals, including gold in the parallel bars, at the Central South Asian Artistic Gymnastics Championships held in Dhaka, Bangladesh.

It was the first time a Bengali competitor had won an international title in gymnastics.

"There was quite a bit of media attention, although I did enjoy it," added Caesar, who also competed at the 2011 World Championships in Tokyo.

"I was approached by journalists halfway through that competition. That was a little different. It was quite an experience."

Caesar was born in Florida and learnt his trade in the United States. Injuries during his career have stalled his progress and in a recent newspaper interviewexternal-link he admitted that it could have prevented him from making the US team.

But the college student is delighted to represent his family's homeland.

"My dad always wanted me to represent Bangladesh," added Caesar, whose father adopted the uncommon Bengali surname as a result of being the first child in the country born via Caesarian section.

"At first I wasn't feeling it, but then I felt the pride of competing for the country."

Since receiving his invitation, Caesar has increased his training regime from 20 to 35 hours per week. He sees London 2012 as the "final stepping stone" in his gymnastics career.

"I'm going to take in the entire experience from the Olympics - the village, the venues and competing out on the Olympic floor," he said.

"I just want to go out there and hit my routines. As long as I do my best then I'll be very happy, regardless of where I'm placed."