Mascot of SAG representing taekwondo. (Left) Nepal’s taekwando players attend a training session as part of their preparation for the 13th South Asian Games (SAG) in Kathmandu on Monday. (Right) Photo: Dipesh Shrestha/Republica
KATHMANDU, Nov 29: Nepal hopes to win majority of medals in taekwondo in the upcoming 13th South Asian Games (SAG)--which is set to begin from Dec 1 to 10, since the combative sport has the most successful history in international competitions.
Nepal first showed its participation in the regional championship in the eighth SAG in 1999 held in Kathmandu, where Nepal bagged 14 gold medals in taekwondo alone out of total 31 golds it won.
But, in the ninth SAG held in Pakistan, Nepal only managed six golds. In the 10th SAG held in Sri Lanka and 11th SAG held in Bangladesh, Nepal only won two golds each. It was the last time Nepal won a gold in the SAG. Although seven players out of the participating ten made it to the finals in the 12th SAG held in India, none of them clinched one.
But, the story is different now. The SAG has returned home after a gap of twenty years.
Nepal is competing in both gyorugi and poomsae categories. The poomsae will make its debut in the SAG history after it was officially introduced in the last Asian Games.
Of the total 29 gold medals, Nepal is competing in 16 weight divisions (eight in male and eight in female) in gyorugi and 13 poomsae categories (individual, pair and team).
The matches will start from Monday at the Taekwondo Academy in Satdobato.
Although the Nepal Olympic Committee allowed the entry of India in taekwondo in the last minute on Wednesday, Nepal head coach Nabin Kumar Shrestha was confident that Nepali taekwondo players will bring good results considering they have been preparing for a long time.
“We have a good mix of experience and youth,” said Shrestha, adding, “all of them have been working hard. They have had match exposure as well. Therefore, we are convinced we can get good outcome in the SAG.”
The taekwondo team has been training for the past three months targeting the SAG. The players participating in gyorugi trained in China while the players in poomsae trained in Indonesia and Malaysia.
They participated in gyorugi in China Open and poomsae in Indonesia where they performed really well, admits Shrestha.
The poomsae players also trained with the national players of Indonesia and Malaysia.
“These countries are very good in poomsae. They have also won medals in this category at the Asian Games,” said poomsae coach Norbu Lama. “Our players also participated there. They were good.” “Out of the total 13 in poomsae, we hope to bag at least seven golds,” he added.
Aayesha Shaka, who is participating in poomsae individual event in above 30 years age category, has been in the national team for one-and-a-half decades.
Shakya is competing in poomsae for the first time. She won bronze at the 2006 Asian Games and silver at the 2006 SAG before bagging a gold in 11th SAG. In the 12th SAG, she only won a silver medal.
Shakya said it would be challenging for her as she is competing in a new category.
“I will have added pressure as I have a new role in the team. But, I have prepared well. I will try to get good results.
Along with Shakya, 2006 Asian Games bronze medalist Manita Shahi will compete in 73 kg weight category. She won a gold medal in the 10th SAG and added a silver in the following edition. She did not participate in the 12th SAG.
Nisha Rawal, who participated in the 2014 Rio Olympics, will also compete for the gold in the over 73 kg weight category.
Five players who also took part in the last SAG are also competing this time. However, the other players are new.