Bhandari erases bitter experience of 10th SAG

DHAKA: Participating in the first international event since he was caught in doping during the 10th South Asian Games in Colombo, athlete Rajendra Bhandari gave Nepal the eighth gold medal in marathon in a bizarre circumstances here at the 11th South Asian Games today.

The 10th SA Games double gold medallist, Bhandari finished the shortened course in world record time of one hour, 59 minutes and 42 seconds. The Tribhuvan Army Club athlete had won 3,000m steeplechase and 5,000m gold medals in Colombo. The athlete was later stripped of the medal for his doping offence. He was also banned for one year for the doping offence.

On Tuesday, the blunder of the local organisers saw all the marathoners run at least five kilometres less than the mandatory 42.195km. Ajith Bandara Adikari (2:00:12) of Sri Lanka and Ram Singh (2:00:23) of India won

silver and bronze medals respectively. Another Nepali athlete and the 10th SA Games silver medallist Arjun Kumar Basnet finished fourth in 2:02:12.

After the victory, Bhandari said he won a personal battle. "More than winning a medal, the Games was a matter of personal ego and pride for me. I am happy to have achieved that goal," said the former middle-distance runner, adding he would continue running the marathon. "I have still a lot to give to my country and it's just the beginning," Bhandari added.

Embarrassed by the technical glitch, the organisers did not even provide the official timing of the athletes. Haile Gebrselassie of Ethopia holds the world record of 2:03:59 set during the Berlin Marathon. Legendary Nepali marathoner Baikuntha Manandhar -- who won three consecutive gold medals in 1984 (Kathmandu), 1985 (Dhaka) and 1987 (Calcutta) -- holds the regional Games record of 2:15:03 set during the third editionof the Games in 1987.

The organisers hastened the medal ceremony to avoid further embarrassment but the Sri Lankan officials filed a complaint to the technical committee over the incident. Bangladesh Athletics Association (BAA) President ASM Ali Kabir said they decided to hand over the medals to the deserved winners. "We believed that the players should not be deprived of their medals.

But we have formed a committee to investigate on the route mapping," added the BAA President.

With the win, Nepal ended fifth in the medal tally. In all, Nepal won eight gold, nine silver and 20 bronze medals. They had won seven gold, 15 silver and 31 bronze medals in the 10th SA Games in Dhaka. For Nepal, the Dhaka Games was the most successful one on foreign soil in terms of gold medals surpassing the seven won during the 10th SA GAmes in Colombo in 2006. Also, the Dhaka outing brought another landmark for Nepal, who had won just one gold medal each in the previous two editions of the regional games held in Bangladesh.