Nepali taekwondokas battle to regain lost glory

  • 18th asian games
- PRAJWAL OLI, Kathmandu

Aug 4, 2018-

Nepali taekwondokas  look to regain the lost glory when they compete in the 18th Asian Games scheduled for August 18 to September 4 in Indonesia.

Taekwondo is the most successful sports discipline in terms of medal haul for Nepal in the Asiad. In their seven-decade long participation history, Nepal have struck a total of 23 medals with 14 of them coming from taekwondo alone. Nepal’s athletes’ best run in the Games has been a silver medal finish. And it was taekwondoka Sabita Rajbhandari who won it during the 1998 Bangkok Asiad.

But the sports has been in downward spiral in recent years. Let alone the Asiad, the Nepal  have been even struggling to fetch desired success in the South Asian Games, a far less competitive meet where Nepal has been a dominant force in martial arts.

The game that fetched 14 out of 16 gold medals during the eight SAG in 1999 have not struck a medal in Asiad since 2006. That Nepal failed to win a single gold during the 12th SAG in 2016 speaks volumes of the sports at the current state.

In their bid to turn their tide, however, a 14-member Nepali team is currently undergoing rigorous training in South Korea with eyes on the Asiad medals. Arguably the two of the most successful sportspersons in the history of Nepali sports, Deepak Bista and Sangina Baidhya along with Badri Prasad Ghimire and Norbu Lama are honing their skills of the team with support of Korean coaches. Bista and Baidhya are the only two players to have fought their way to the Olympics Games so far in the history of Nepali sports. Rest of the Nepali participation in Olympics have been all through wild card entries.

Sagar Guvaju (58kg), Bir Bahadur Mahara (63kg), Gyanendra Hamal (68kg), Bhupen Shrestha (80kg) and Anoj Pujari (above 80kg) have been selected in the men’s gyorogi while Kamal Shrestha will compete in men’s individual poomsae. Asmita Khadka (49kg), Nima Gurung (53kg), Gyani Chunara (57kg), Sangita Basyal (67kg) and Nisha Rawa (above 67kg) have been picked up in women’s gyorogi. Parbati Gurung will compete in the women’s individual poomsae as well as team poomsae along with Sina Maden and Nita Gurung.

One of the current coaches, Bista is one three players to win the most recent medal in the  Asian Games. Bista along with fellow taekwondokas Manita Shahi and Ayesha Shakya had struck bronze medals at 2006 Asiad in Doha.

Rio Olympics participant, Nisha Rawal said she was extremely satisfied with the way the team’s training was going in Korea. “We are al in good shape and very motivated to embrace success. We are hopeful of returning home with Asiad medal this time,” said Rawal. Rawal said their experience of playing in the local competitions in Korea as well as sparring with quality partners will be very beneficial.

“We are preparing really well and doing everything we need to do,” said Bista who is also the secretary of Nepal Taekwondo Association and record four-time SAG gold medallist for Nepal. “Our focus is winning medals at the Asiad.” Bista said the medal prospects depend on lot of things including the tiesheet draw, fitness and the confident. “But if the players perform to the level they are now, we can certainly strike medals,” added Bista.

Bista calls for the sports governing body, the National Sports Council, to prioritise sports in order to increase the prospect of winning international medals. “You need to give better exposure, facility and focus to certain disciplines like taekwondo in order to get better results. To put every sports in the same mould is disappointing. Its unproductive,” added Bista.

Bista said that the Nepali players are capable to even winning gold at Asiad provided they get better exposure and facilities. “If only we follow in the footsteps of successful nations and start preparations immediately after the end of the one to the next Asiad, we can guarantee a gold,” boosted Bista.

For now though, a medal of any colour in Asiad would be a great achievement considering the recent struggles in internationals competitions. Nepal are fielding 185 players in 29 sports disciplines in the Asian Games.

Published: 04-08-2018 09:46

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