Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

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October 4, 2022

Yusuf Bizimana reflects on observing Ramadan as a student athlete

Skyler Sharp
Senior Yusuf Bizimana waves to the crowd after running the anchor leg of the sprint medley relay on March 29, 2024, at the Clyde Littlefield Texas Relays. Bizimana led his relay team to a first place finish, with a final time of 3:15.03.

This year, the recognition of the Islamic holiday Ramadan lasted from March 10 through April 9, with those who participated fasting each from sunrise to sunset, and emphasizing good deeds, religious discipline, spiritual reflection and community. 

For senior middle distance runner Yusuf Bizimana, the Islamic faith has always been a part of his life, from his time growing up in London to competing on the Texas men’s track and field team.

“It’s helped me become a person that constantly seeks improvement,” Bizimana said. “Whether it be in sports, academic endeavors, or just being a better person each and every single day.”

Ramadan can be both difficult and very rewarding. For some athletes, the practice of fasting can make practicing and competing harder. While it is becoming more common to see athletes participating, Bizimana was the only men’s track and field athlete to celebrate, but said that he was still able to find community in spite of this.

“Some of my teammates did a couple of days with me,” Bizimana said. “That was very heartwarming because it shows the team dynamic here in Texas and shows that everyone is willing to help out.”

Bizimana also has a dietician that has helped him prioritize essential foods when he wasn’t fasting each day after sunset. As is traditional for many who practice Islam, Bizimana would break his fasti with dates initially before eating full meals of pasta or rice with protein.

“I’d love some bolognese,” Bizimana said. “I definitely need to be eating the right stuff because if I went out with the boys and had some pizza, I don’t think that’ll be the best to fuel myself with.”

Bizimana said he has looked to Khabib Nurmagomedov, a famous UFC fighter and champion who observes Ramadan, for inspiration. Khabib has always been vocal about his religion, planning his fights around Ramadan, and thanking God. These values resonate with Bizimana in his own journey in athletics.

“I think he’s a great role model to a lot of Muslims around the world,” Bizimana said. “I try to emulate a person that is a man of substance.”

Similar to Khabib, Bizimana has had to adjust his routine to fit within Ramadan. Because he is not able to drink during the day, the focus of his training is on maintaining his times rather than making gains.

“This is a month where all I have to do is get from the other side in one piece,” Bizimana said. “I still have a scholarship I’m on, and I still have a job to do for the University of Texas.”

After the sunset between April 9-10, the holiday Eid was celebrated. After the morning prayer, there are celebrations where people spend time eating and being in community. After attending the prayer and getting brunch in downtown Austin, Bizimana said he celebrated with the many students and people in Austin who had observed Ramadan.

“It was a nice sunny day in Austin and we did some fun activities down South Congress … got some nice ice cream too,” Bizimana said. “It was lovely vibes all around.”

One area in which Bizimana thinks the University should improve is being more inclusive to Muslim students.

“We’re inclusive to anything and just like how Christians have Christmas and Easter and Jewish people have their own holidays as well, as Muslims we have Eid,” Bizimana said. “Maybe a poster saying Happy Eid and assure everyone that you know, the university cares not just us being students, but us as human beings as a whole and our beliefs.”

As Bizimana reflects on his final Ramadan as a student athlete at Texas, he has been thinking about his intentions of setting an example for kids and future athletes.

“This Ramadan has shown me that I want to be able to put energy in things that I know are gonna benefit me in the future,” Bizimana said. “I don’t think you can chase being perfect, but you can always improve, and as long as you’re doing better than you were yesterday, I think you’re doing a pretty good job.”

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