Ramadan sets Muslim athletes extra test at London

Tue May 22, 2012 6:22pm GMT
 

By Kate Kelland, Health and Science Correspondent

LONDON (Reuters)- When Malaysian cyclist Azizulhasni Awang opted to postpone his Ramadan fast until after the London Games, the decision was all about going for Olympic gold.

Anything that might jeopardise the chance of a medal for the 24-year-old at his second Olympics had to be dealt with sensibly, he says. And going without food and drink between sunrise and sunset every day for four weeks is just too risky.

"We need to train, we need food, fluids, water," he told Reuters during a training session at a velodrome in Melbourne with team mate Fatehah Mustapa, who will become the first Malaysian woman cyclist to ride at an Olympics.

"We've trained really, really hard ... to strive for the gold medal, so we're not going to waste it. This Olympics is really important for me and Fatehah. You think we're going to sacrifice that?"

The coincidence of Ramadan this year with the London Olympics, which starts on July 27, a week into the month-long Muslim fast, has thrown up a dilemma for the estimated 3,000 Muslim athletes expected to compete.

The Ramadan fast is a time when Muslims are required to abstain from food and drink during daylight hours. Athletes are allowed to defer their fasts until a later date, but many Muslim sportsmen and women from cultures or countries where not fasting is frowned upon may well honour the holy month.

MUSCLE POWER, SPIRITUAL STRENGTH

Medical experts say that, theoretically at least, a reduction of food intake during Ramadan could deplete an athlete's liver and muscle glycogen stores. This is likely to lead to a drop in performance, particularly in sports requiring muscle strength.   Continued...

Malaysian cyclist Azizulhasni Awang rides with a camera on his helmet at Packer Park in Melbourne, May 16, 2012. REUTERS/Mal Fairclough
 
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