Nepal’s boxing players attend a training session in Satdobato, Lalitpur on Wednesday. Dil Kumar Ale/Republica
KATHMANDU, Nov 28: With the wait for a gold medal in boxing stretching back to the eighth edition of the South Asian Games (SAG), Nepal’s boxing coach expects the team to grab at least a couple medals when the country hosts the tournament for the third time in December.
The expectation of winning gold in boxing is always a hard task to follow, and it has been a long time since Nepal’s boxing team won a gold medal. The last time Nepal won gold was at the eighth SAG in 1999 when Prakash Thapa Magar and Ram Chandra got it for Nepal on the home soil. Before that, late Dal Bahadur Rana Magar and late Pushkar Dhoj Shahi got the golds for Nepal in the first edition of the competition in 1984.
Nepal has gone without winning a single gold medal in the past four editions of the competition.
There is a positive side to hosting the games at home. Nepali boxers have been able to win gold medals in the two editions organized in the country.
Coach Dipak Maharjan, however, expects the team to win two to three gold medals this time. But he could not ignore the fact that defeating India would be a tough task.
He is counting on the contribution of a foreign coach and good facility provided by the government for the preparation of the competition.
“We are the contender after India, for sure. India is in a top place in the region for a long time. They are the toughest contenders for us,” Maharjan said. “But, the boys have shown hunger and energy this time. Playing at home is a benefit for sure, but we can’t overlook India’s dominance in the sport.”
“We certainly can win a few gold medals. We won’t be as reticent as we were in the past four editions. We have an Uzbekistan coach, Alisher Rakhimov, who has helped us in good physical training,” Maharjan said.
“We have had good preparations prior to the tournament. We prepared for three months in Bangkok and Rakhimov’s appointment two months ago has certainly helped us in good technical training.”
Rakhimov stresses more on physical training to keep the players fit. The players were on a closed camp for about a month with physical and technical training only.
Nepal will compete in 16 different events in boxing with the participation of 10 men and six women players. Max Basnet had to leave the team as he underwent a knee operation recently.
The team features some good players who have performed well in the national level in the recent tournaments. Along with Sangeeta Sunar, Deepak Shrestha and Bhupendra Thapa, the team also has Sushil Thapa Magar, who went as far as the quarterfinals of the Thailand Open International Boxing Championship.
Even though boxing has seen a vast dip in the success that it achieved during the earlier editions of the competition, the performances of the young players Thapa Magar, Sangeeta Sunar, among others has given hopes that Nepal could achieve the feat of the first and the eighth editions, or do one better.
The government has not turned a blind eye on developing boxing as a sport and providing facilities to the players, said coach Maharjan.
“We have had resources better than before. We’ve got the facilities when we have asked for them. Despite getting it late as expected, we have good facilities too,’’ Maharjan added.
“The wages have been provided as well, along with the training hall here at Satdobato. We were preparing with physical training in Army’s Physical Fitness and Training Center as well.”
The expectations in boxing have been increased due to the recent performances of Thapa Magar, Sunar and Bhupendra Thapa.
They are expected to win the golds for their country and with a foreign coach and good facilities provided to the game, less than three golds in the 13th South Asian Games will surely be marked as a major failure.
Boxers representing Nepal in SAG Men
Sushil Thapa Magar: 49 kg
Tej Bahadur Deuba: 52 kg
Puran Rai: 56 kg
Shanil Shahi: 60 kg
Bhupendra Thapa: 64 kg
Bikash Lama: 69 kg
Deepak Shrestha: 75 kg
Ganesh Pradhan: 81 kg
Arjun Sigu: 91 kg
Ashish Duwadi: 91 kg+ Women
Lalita Maharjan: 48 kg
Mala Rai: 51 kg
Minu Gurung: 54 kg
Chandrakala Thapa: 57 kg
Sangeeta Sunar: 60 kg
Punam Rawal: 64 kg