Featured image credit: ruqsana-begum.com
In a recent interview with SunSport, British kickboxing champion Ruqsana Begum, 33, revealed that she’d been in talks with various creative types about committing her story to the page and the screen: ‘I am currently speaking to a writer about doing a book and I am speaking to a director about a possible film, so I am excited to see what’s next.’
So who is Ruqsana Begum and why is there so much interest in her life? Born in Essex to a family with Bangladeshi origins, Begum took up kickboxing as an 18-year-old student. She was initially hesitant to tell her parents about her new hobby.
Instead, Begum would tell her parents that she was going to the gym, but gave the impression she was running on a treadmill, not taking blows to the body: ‘I was afraid to talk about it to them because I was a female going into a brutal combat sport and I know, through conversations here, even some of the western girls struggled to tell their families.’
Yet two years after she started training, her dad asked: ‘Why are you walking like a boxer?’
Although Begum was worried about how her parents would react, they accepted her sport in their own unique way: ’My family never said no and they never said yes but eventually I finished university and I decided to bring them to the gym. After they saw the gym and they didn’t try to stop me I saw it as my chance to dive right in and within a year I was selected for Team GB.’
Her parents came to the gym in 2006, five years after she first started training. Begum went pro in 2008. Since then she’s become the first Muslim British woman to be crowned Muay Thai Atomweight Kickboxing Champion, and she’s currently captain of the British Muay Thai team.
The potential disapproval of her parents has not been the only obstacle on Begum’s road to success. She also suffers from Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME), a chronic fatigue illness that severely limits her training.
When you consider her determination in the face of these issues, it’s little wonder people want to dramatise her life. It may also explain her willingness to help other people get into sport. Along with coaching free after-school Muay Thai classes in east London, Begum is a trainer for Fight for Peace, a charity that encourages young people to reject crime in favour of the discipline and hard-work that comes with boxing.
In an addition to this, Begum has created a line of hijabs that can be used in the ring, or during any sport for that matter. This is to encourage Muslim women to get into combat sports without them having to worry about their clothing being an obstacle.
Through her success in the ring and charity work out of it, Begum has shown how sport is for everyone, no matter your gender, background or religion. Now we just have to wait for the movie to come out.
You can follow Ruqsana Begum on Twitter here.