Nepal Olympic Committee President Jeevan Ram Shrestha (Republica)
KATHMANDU, July 25: Nepal’s preparations for the 18th Asian Games, which is just around the corner, are on a rapid track. However, a major sport authority of the country sees the games more as a warm up for the next year’s South Asian Games (SAG) than an opportunity to win medals.
“We are not very hopeful that our players will bring medals to Nepal despite having good and satisfying preparations before the tournament. The games is more of a platform for the players to get international exposure and sharpen their fitness,” said Jeevan Ram Shrestha, president of the Nepal Olympic Committee (NOC).
“There is no hope of winning medals. We need to do a lot in order to win medals, which is not possible in the current situation of our country,” Shrestha told Republica.
The Asian Games is scheduled to be held from August 18 to September 2 in Jakarta and Palembang, Indonesia.
Nepal is taking part in 28 out of the 40 games to be played in the tournament. Nepal has not yet won a single gold medal in the entire history of the Asian Games despite making debut at the first edition of the games in 1951. It has won one silver and 22 bronze medals in the six editions the country has played from 1951 to 2014.
As Nepal is preparing for the games both at home and abroad, the NOC is hopeful that these preparations will help in future games of the country, and also in the SAG being hosted in Kathmandu next year.
“We have also sent some players abroad to practice until the games start, while some are about to leave for training. Some are training in different parts of the country. In my opinion, this is just an opportunity to see how our players perform in the games, and not to expect them to win gold medals at the moment,” Shrestha added. “The government, the ministry and the National Sports Council (NSC) have been pretty optimistic about the performance of the team as they decided to select the games that will be fit for us to play. The council had held selections for each game, and only top players were selected. We are hopeful that we will do well, but winning medal is not a priority just yet.”
Among the players for the Asian Games, Judoka Phupu Lhamu Khatri left for Japan in late April, where she will attend the Olympic Solidarity Cup in preparation for the Asian Games. The 27-month practice will basically help her prepare for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Nepal is taking part in two games for the first time. In pencak silat, Bibek Kumar BK is selected to feature in 60 to 65 kg category whereas Nerish Thapa will represent Nepal in skateboard.
The players of taekwondo have already left for South Korea in early May for a training course. A total of 10 players including five men and five women are taking part in the event. The men participants are Sagar Gubhaju, Bir Bahadur Mahara, Gyanendra Hamal, Bhupen Shrestha and Anuj Puri, while Ashmita Khadka, Nima Gurung, Gyani Pujara, Sangeeta Batsyal and Nisha Rawal are the women participants. They will be trained by Sangeena Baidhya.
Likewise, the Nepali boxers left for Thailand for a training course in late June, where they also participated in the Thailand Open International Boxing Championships from June 28 to July 6 held in Bangkok.
The men participants of boxing in the Asian Games are Tej Bahadur Deuba (49 kg), Prem Chaudhary (52 kg), Bimal Roka (56 kg), Ek Bahadur Ghale (60 kg), Bhupendra Thapa (64 kg), Bishnu Ghale (69 kg) and Dipak Shrestha (75 kg), while the women boxers are Bimala Shrestha (51 kg), Sangita Sunar (57 kg) and Punam Rawal (60 kg).
The Karate team is said to be leaving for Japan in some days for a training course. The team consists of Anu Adhikari (50 kg), Sunita Maharjan (61 kg), Rita Karki (+68 kg), Sonam Lama (60 kg), Diwas Shrestha (84 kg) along with Chanchala Danuwar and Parshuram Bastola in single category.
Also, the men’s football team will leave for Thailand later this week where they will also play against the home team.
A seven-member table tennis team including five players left for India two days ago for a month-long training course in New Delhi. The team consists of Deep Saun, Santoo Shrestha, Amar Lal Malla in the men’s category, and Nabita Shrestha, Suvekshya Nemwang, Rabina Maharjan in the women’s category. Saun will leave for New Delhi on July 29.
“I won’t really count off that the players won’t win the medal at all, they can, but on the basis of the level of other countries, we are not there yet. The players who play at this level in Asia are the medal winners in the previous editions and also have taken part in the Olympics,” Shrestha further added. “The good thing is that our players will get to play against them which can reflect what they should improve on the upcoming days. We are going to take part in the event for exposure and to boost the confidence of the players.”
10 new category of games has been added from this edition of the games which includes 3*3 basketball, contract bridge, jet ski, paragliding, pencak silat, ju-jitsu, sambo, kurash, rock climbing and roller sports.
Nepal will be taking part in taekwondo, boxing, judo, pencak silat, skateboarding, table tennis, karate, football, archery, shooting, athletics, sepak takrow, rock climbing, fencing, golf, wushu, kurash, basketball, swimming, cycling, triathlon, lawn tennis, paragliding, kabaddi, volleyball, weightlifting, and wrestling.
Shrestha said that the performance in the Asian Games will be the basis for selection for the SAG. “We will make favorable environment for the players in the South Asian Games for the training. I can be sure that the SAG will go well, and we have plans for it,” Shrestha added.