Wushu coach Ganesh Aryal instructs the players during a training session at the Nepal Sports Council semi-covered hall in Tripureshwor, Kathmandu on Friday. Anil Malla Thakuri/Republica
KATHMANDU, Aug 26: Nepal is considered as ‘master warriors’ in Wushu, a sport that has been a saving grace for the country in the prestigious South Asian Games (SAG).
However, Nepal has not been able to win frequent medals in the biennial multi-sport event despite starting gloriously in the 10th edition when wushu gained entry in SAG for the first time.
The 13th edition of SAG, which is returning to Nepal after 20 years, is a perfect opportunity to re-establish Nepal’s dominance in combative sports. Nepal had had a good performance during the last edition of the Games raising the expectations for the home edition in December.
Nima Gharti Magar brought gold medal in the 12th edition of SAG winning the Taolu held at Shilong of India. The teenage girl scored 8.46 to earn the first gold for Nepal. India and Pakistan won the silver and the bronze medals in the competition respectively.
Similarly, Nepal’s Bijay Sanjali finished runner-up by a small margin.
A total of 11 Nepali athletes reached the final stages but only Magar won the gold.
In the 10th edition (2006) held in Bangladesh, Bina Khadka and Raj Kumar Rasaili won gold medals in the newly-included event.
Khadka impressed all-round in the Thaulo (demonstration) event including Nan Quan, Nan Tau, and Nan Qun. She earned 8.93 points in Nan Quan (bare hands), 8.91 in Nan Tao (with sword) and 8.98 points in Nan Qun (with stick).
Rasaili outscored Zakir Hussain of Pakistan to win another gold medal in Wushu. In the San Shau 52-kg final, Rasaili was 1-3 behind after the first round, but returned into the match when he earned four points to nil of his Pakistani opponent.
Nepal’s decline in South Asia is the result of lack of proper exposure at the international level. The inadequate infrastructure and lack of state-of-the-art training regimes are other two key factors.
In 2000, Nepal won 23 out of 29 categories in South Asian Wushu Championship (SAWC) held in Kathmandu. In 2003, Nepal won 10 out of same number of categories in the (SAWC) held in New Delhi. The decline continued to 2008 with Nepal winning 5 out of available 29 gold medals.
Nepal’s results in SAG have suffered the same decline.
A total of 44 wushukas including the gold and silver medal winners of 8th National Games are preparing for the latest edition of the marquee Asian Games at National Sports Council (NSC)’s semi-covered hall at Tripureshwor in Kathmandu.
Eight wushukas have been under special training course prior to the National Games. The trainings for SAG were started immediately after the completion of National Games in April.
However, the provided area is congested for a jumbo team of 44. At place, it is draped wet due to regular rains.
Assistant coach Prakash Lama raised his concerns for the inadequate spaces for training.
“We demanded proper covered hall but they didn’t provide it. The mat here is not in proper condition to prepare for Taolu. But we have to manage with whatever we get.”
Similarly, Coach Ganesh Aryal is not satisfied by the poor training conditions. “We do not have enough space for proper training. We also need equipment which has not been addressed at all.”
Aryal also pointed on traveling to China for the complete training of wushukas. “If we could travel to China for preparations and fight with trained and experience wushukas for at least three months then we can expect our players to grow physically and mentally strong.”
Coach Lama is confident to bring gold in Taolu and San Shau. He believes India is top rival in Taolu whereas most countries are good at San Shau.
Majority of athletes who did well in last edition have been included for the upcoming edition including the likes of Magar, Sinjali, Sabita Rai and Juni Rai.
Coach Lama is positive on the mix of youth and experience to bring good results for the country. However, lack of exposure at that level might become a big hindrance.
Nepali athletes have not participated in any international event after the participation in Asian Games 2018 held in Indonesia a year ago.
Nepal coach Aryal has taken the World Wushu Championship to be held in China from October 19 to 23 as an ideal opportunity to get some exposure for the athletes and learn the strategies of opposing teams to prepare for the SAG.
Alike many sports administrative bodies in Nepal, the Wushu Association is also facing the similar fate. The office holders are often termed as ‘dictatorial’ despite themselves being wushuka in past. The Nepali wushukas have rich presence in the Technical Team for South Asian Countries for the sport.
However, they have been found struggling to formulate medal winning athletes.
The current training area for the SAG and lack of equipment, as mentioned by the coaches, hints at underlying ignorance for development of the sport.