10TH SOUTH ASIAN GAMES: Taekwondo expects better show

Kathmandu, August 10:

Nepal is considered a stronghold in martial arts in the South Asian region especially in taekwondo, karate, judo and wushu. Taekwondo and karate have proved their dominance in the region by claiming bulks of medals in the South Asian Federation (SAF) Games (now known as SA Games) since its introduction from the eight SAF Games in Kathmandu.

Nepali taekwondo have topped all the other disciplines in terms of winning gold medals despite participating only in the last two Games. It has won 20 gold medals while Karate lies second (also introduced with Taekwondo) with 15 golds. Boxing is next with six gold, 26 silver and 45 bronze medals.

When taekwondo was included in the eight SAF Games in Kathmandu in 1999, Nepal won a record of 31 gold, 10 silver and 24 bronze medals. Taekwondo alone gave Nepal 14 gold, 2 silver and 2 bronze medals while karate claimed 14 gold and a silver and bronze medal each.

Although, taekwondo failed to meet the expectation at the ninth SAF Games, it bagged six gold medals out of the seven Nepal won in Islamabad in 2004. Karateka Deepak Shrestha was the only other gold medallists then.

The first Nepali player to qualify for the Olympic games, sporting star Sangina Baidya and Deepak Bista are not only the potential gold medal winners but are also in line to join the legendary marathoner Biakuntha Manandhar to win the three consecutive gold. Manandhar had won gold medal in the first three SAF Games.

In an effort to reclaim the success of the eight SAF Games, Nepal Taekwondo Association has hired South Korean coach Kwon Hyouk Joung to train the players for the SAG.

Joung is expecting at least six gold medals. Apart from Bista and Baidya, Joung named Ram Saran Chaudhary, Kumar Manandhar, Pitambar Upreti and Ghan Shyam Khadka as the potential gold medal winners. “Everyone is good but Bista and Baidya are even better,” he said.

Meanwhile, Baidya’s fitness has posed a serious concern in her bid to win third gold. Baidya underwent a minor operation a week ago and was worried about her full recovery in time. Baidya said she would resume training by Sunday. “I will have additional pressure as expectations are always high with me.”

Bista was happy with training after the arrival of the Korean coach. “ He has a distinct way of training and so far it has helped us a lot,” Bista said. Bista was also impressed with Joung’s ability to identify their weaknesses during training.

SQUAD: Men — Kumar Manandhar (finn), Amar Raj Lama (fly), Ram Saran Chaudhary (bantam), Ganesh Khadka (feather), Pitamber Upreti (light), Deepak Bista (welter), Ghan Shyam Khadka (middle), Sunil Singh (heavy); Women — Yam Kumari Chaulagain (finn), Sangina Baidha (fly), Padma Gurung (bantam), Manita Shahi (feather), Ayusha Shakya (light).