Gaurika Singh competes at the 2016 Rio Olympics Games in Rio de Janerio, Brazil, in this file photo.
KATHMANDU, August 23: Swimming is one of the sports in Nepal that is still not accessible to most of the sports aspirants. Due to limited number of players, the same faces represent Nepal in the international competitions most of the times.
For instance, Nepal is represented by the same players in almost all the international championships of women’s swimming.
From 2011 to 2017, Nepal has sent a total of 31 swimmers to participate in the women’s/girls’ sections of 14 international competitions. Out of them, 24 players have been from Lincoln School, Kathmandu.
Swimmers Shreya Dhital, Sofia Shah, Aditi Dhital, Niharika Tuladhar, Shreetika Singh who have represented Nepal in events like FINA World Championships, Olympic Games, FINA Short Course World cup, Asian Swimming Championship are from Lincoln School.
Only Gaurika Singh and Sonira Bista who have represented Nepal in international swimming competitions do not have any affiliation with the Lincoln School.
President of the Nepal Swimming Association (NSA) Ashok Bajracharya said that Lincoln, providing proper facilities and training to the players, eventually helps them to excel over rest of the swimmers.
“The Lincoln School is better equipped with swimming infrastructure than rest of the schools and teams in the country,” Bajracharya said: “The swimmers from Lincoln have better timing and are better poised to be selected to represent Nepal in international events. They always surpass other swimmers.”
“Lincoln also has a swimming pool with proper heating system that enables the swimmers to practice the entire year, which is not the case for other schools and teams. So they produce better swimmers than others,” added Bajracharya.
However, according to inside sources, NSA has sent the Lincoln swimmers to participate in the women’s/girls’ sections of the international events without a proper selection process.
According to the sources, NSA selected the Lincoln swimmers such as Niharika Tuladhar, Sofia Shah, Shreetika Singh, Ayushma Tuladhar, Tisa Shakya, and Akshara Singh for the international events including Asian Swimming Championship, FINA World Championship held last year without following proper selection process.
According to the sources, Tisa’s father Sagar Shakya, who is a central committee member of NSA, influences the selection of players for international events.
NSA is also said to be manipulating the timings of the swimmers and the date of domestic tournaments in favor of the Lincoln players. Recently, NSA had tried to change the date of the 20th National Swimming Championships.
The championship date was set for mid-August but NSA had tried to push it back by one month to affect the participation of Olympian Gaurika Singh, who had to travel to Nepal from the United Kingdom (UK).
However after instructions from Ministry for Youth and Sports and National Sports Council (NSC), NSA was forced to host the championship in the slated date.
NSA also tried to restrict the swimmers to participate in more than four events at the national championships which could have prevented players like Gaurika from taking part in various events.
However, there was no such rule in previous competitions. But later NSA couldn’t pose such rule and Olympian Singh took part in six events of the women’s section while Anubhav Subba participated in nine events of the men’s sections.
The 13-year-old swimmer Singh, who was the only medal winner for Nepal in the 12th South Asian Games (SAG) held in India last year faced obstacles from NSA.
However Singh who represented Tribhuvan Army Club broke four national records by winning six gold medals in the championship held at International Swimming Complex, Satdobato.
Bajracharya, however, denied the claims that NSA gave priority to the Lincoln players.
“The claim that Tisa or other Lincoln players got priority over other players is false. In many international competitions, Nepali players don’t qualify from the open competition. That’s why we are given the wild card,” said Bajracharya: “And we select the players for the wild card entry because of their better timing, not because they are from Lincoln school or for any other reasons.”
Meanwhile, NSA’s general secretary Jagat Man Shrestha said that the government hasn’t made any serious investment in the swimming infrastructure.
“We don’t have a swimming pool with heating system in order to train the swimmers for the whole year,” Shrestha said: “When such primary facility is missing, how can Nepali players win medals in international competitions?”
He also said that even the talented players with big potential don’t get the required facilities to improve their game.
‘‘For instance, Sirish Gurung has set the national record for 46 times and has broken 14 categories out of 17 in the national games, but he does not get required facilities for improvement. Sitaram Shahi, who participated in the 1996 Atlanta Summer Olympics, is jobless now,” Shrestha said.