Taekwondo aims to revive glorious days

Kathmandu, January 18

Taekwondo is a discipline with glorious history in Nepali sports. Only two players Sangina Baidya and Deepak Bista have qualified for Olympic Games from Nepal and both are from taekwondo.

Nepal’s best performance silver medal won by Sabita Rajbhandari in the Asian Games came from a taekwondo player and it holds one of the two South Asian Games records set by Nepali athletes Bista’s four gold medals.

Legendary athlete Baikuntha Manandhar holds the other record of 2:15:03 in marathon.

One of the most successful disciplines of Nepali sports is in declining stage off late. Except for few players, the newcomers have not lived up to the expectation.

Introduced in 1999 SAF Games in Kathmandu, Nepal clean swept the discipline with 14 gold medals, while it was reduced to six in the ninth edition in 2004 and has been restricted to two each in the last two editions.

For the first time, local coaches have been assigned with the responsibility of preparing the players for next month’s regional sports extravaganza to be held in India.

Taekwondo aces Baidya and Bista are training the players, thrice a day. Chief coach Dhruba Gurung and coach Nabin Kumar Shrestha are also in the coaching team. The team is positive about training and is looking to revive the glorious days.

“We have been training hard although the closed camp began late,” says Baidya, the first Nepali athlete to earn Olympics ticket through qualification.

“The team has experienced as well as new players and they are improving day by day,” she says.

“They have the potential to win medals in the regional games and we are hoping these players will make a comeback to revive the glorious days of Nepali taekwondo,” adds Baidya. “As a coach, I have a lot of expectations from them.”

A total of 13 players eight men and five women are in the closed camp after a selection tournament. Baidya says the coaching team is focusing on seven-eight players in training.

“It is not easy to name a star player at the moment as we have been pinning hopes on seven-eight players in the regional games,” she says.

“Other countries are also coming up and we have not played after the previous SA Games. It depends on the performance of the player on the particular day, so it’s hard to predict.”

Nepali taekwondo is not scheduled to go abroad for training for the first time.

While authorities blame the association for not approaching the National Sports Council, the Nepal Taekwondo Association has blamed the sports governing body’s indifference towards the plea.

The players suffered in the ‘clash’ between the two sides.

Coach Baidya also believes the players would have been better if they were provided with the foreign training. “The players’ confidence goes up when they get better sparring partners,” she says.

“We used to be closed camp sessions used to start early compared to previous years. As these players were in national team for a year, they cannot say the training is not enough.

But at the same time, we can say that the closed camp started a bit late,” says Baidya.

Baidya believes the team is missing Manita Shahi, who left the national team to go to USA and two others Ranjan Shrestha and Tara Kumar Rayamajhi who failed to make the cut in the final selection.

“At the moment, the whole team is missing Manita as she was a class player with suitable height and we could have easily expected a gold medal from her,” she adds.

“The other two players with lot of potential lost their matches in final selection.” Baidya believes the lack of exposure in newcomers will affect the performance.

“We have two-three new players coming in from selection and lack of exposure is disadvantage for them. But they will have to maintain that and do a lot of hard works in the remaining two weeks to come forward,” she adds. Baidya wants to reach a new height as a coach.

“I want to be a successful coach and this is just a beginning for me. It needs a lot of dedication and hard works.

A coach also needs a lot of experience and I want these players not only match our record but also go one step ahead,” she adds.

Ayasha Shakya, the lone Nepali player defending her gold medal in the regional games this time around, is excited to repeat the performance but rued the short closed camp duration.

“The training is going good although the closed camp began late and all the players have put in their 100 per cent,” says Shaya, one of the two taekwondo gold medallists in the 2010 Dhaka Games.

“Actually we were supposed to do cool-down session at this point of time and we are having speedy training. Hopefully, we will have a slow training from next week,” she adds. “We are thinking positive and hope it will not have adverse effect in our performance.”

Shakya says she is little bit under pressure to maintain last edition’s performance. Married to taekwondo ace Deepak Bista, who holds the record of four straight gold medals in the region, Shakya says the weight of expectations is high for her.

“I am overwhelmed to be one of the favourite players but at the same time I am under pressure to continue the legacy as well,” says Shakya, who had to change her weight category after giving birth to a baby boy.

“I stayed away from the sport for two years and when I came back I had no choice to fight in a different weight category.”

Another hopeful, Sakshyam Karki says he is enjoying the training that is as hard as the players needed ahead of international tournaments.

“The duration is short compared to previous tournaments but that is not a real problem for me as I have been in the national team training for the last three years and have trained with senior players in the past,” says Karki, who was injured days before the 2014 Asian Games.

“I missed the opportunity to perform in such a huge platform at that time but I am committed to give my best shot in India,” he says.

Karki is confident of winning medal. “All the players fight for gold medal in the South Asian Games and the case is not different with me. I have to prove myself and I think I am ready for the show.”