Kathmandu, December 2:

Only the second Nepali player to qualify for the Olympics, taekwondo ace Deepak Bista was determined of better performance at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Bista, along with other three players — Manita Shahi, Ayesha Shakya and Kumar Manandhar — and coach Kwon Hyouk Joung returned home today from Vietnam after taking part in the WTF Asian Qualifying Tournament for the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

“I am happy to have made it to the Olympics and now I have to perform my best to honour my country,” said Bista, the three-time gold medallist in the South Asian Games and two-time Asian Games bronze medallist.

He became the only second Nepali player after Sangina Baidya, also a taekwondo player, to qualify for the Olympics. Bista, who had a first round bye at the qualifying, lost to an Iranian opponent but overcame the Syrian player in the third-place match to win the bronze in the welter weight (below 80kg) category to earn a ticket to Beijing. Bista was also declared the best fighter in men’s section and won the Samsung Blue Passion Award — 32-inch Samsung LCD Television.

“It was really tough. I lost to the eventual gold medallist,” said Bista, who was voted the NSJF-LG Player of the Year 2006/07 by Nepal Sports Journalists Forum

in August. Hadi Saei Bonehkohal of Iran and Abdul Qader Sarhan of Qatar claimed the top two positions in the category.

Coach Joung said he was partially successful in his job. “The training in Korea brought my players in good shape. But only one player could qualify for the Olympics, which I think is only a partial success,” said Joung, who also won the NSJF-LG Coach of the Year award.

Manita Shahi, who won gold medal at the SA Games last year, said luck was against her. “The draw was favourable and the opponents were also not that tough. Still I could not qualify,” she said. Ayesha Shakya, said she enjoyed the tournament. “I gave my best but was unfortunate not to win,” she added.

Kumar Manandhar said he was happy that all the players tried their best. Manandhar rued the chance of not making it to the Beijing despite being pitted against the “not so strong” opponent from Laos. “But we did a lot of hard work and put up our best effort,” he said.

President of the Nepal Taekwondo Association Rukma Shumsher Rana among others welcomed the team.