Water Male Tiger Year: Sports – In what could be a rare occasion, Jamsel Yeshey Wangyal, a Class X student of Changangkha MSS in Thimphu won the gold medal in the under-67 kg junior kumite category at the sixth BG Karate Championship held in Bangladesh in December. Other Karate players also bagged two silver and four bronze medals.
Another key highlight in sports in the Year of the Male Water Tiger was the feat by locals in the Snowman Race. Gawa Zangpo, from Royal Body Guards, won the five-day international snowman race covering 203km from Gasa to Bumthang in 31hrs. He defeated 28 ultra-runners from across the world. Moreover, the top five runners were all Bhutanese.
Women athletes caught the spirit of the tiger, thrived, and inspired many more.
In a historic signing, Deki Lhazom joined Saudi Arabia’s football club Al-Ittihad FC. Her achievement inspired thousands of women football enthusiasts in the country who are still battling to find their place in the male-dominated game.
Besides Deki, it was also a good year for national cricketer Anju Gurung who participated in the prestigious maiden world FairBreak Invitational Women’s T20 Cricket tournament in the United Arab Emirates. She played along with players from 30 countries.
The national women’s football team defeated Saudi Arabia 4-2 in an international friendly match. The team also played in the SAFF Women’s Championship in Nepal.
Sporting activities returned to normal last year as the pandemic subsided. Athletes mainly trained for the 19th Asian Games in China which was deferred from September 2022 to September 2023 following a surge of covid-19 cases in the host country.
Bhutan introduced air badminton, beach volleyball, Bhutan Grand Prix, Bhutan HSS Football Championship, Black Mountain Cycling Challenge, and Enduro Competition.
The year of the Tiger saw the completion of the international standard volleyball court and a judo hall in Thimphu, and cricket ground in Gelephu. The new Changjiji Football Academy School enrolled its first batch of students.
To protect from harassment and abuse, the much-needed safe sports policy was launched.
Bhutan participated in some important international tournaments such as SAFF U-17 and U-20 Championship, SABA Women’s Championship, Women’s T20 Championship, FINA World Championship, Asia Oceania Davis Cup, Chess Olympiad, and Asian Cadet and Junior Judo Championship.
The Supreme Court sentenced Kota, owner of Druk Stars FC to four years imprisonment for passive commercial bribery and ordered him to pay Nu 882,764. He was guilty of match-fixing in the Bhutan Super League 2020 and Bhutan Premier League 2020.
Bhutan Football Federation suspended Druk Lhayul FC’s president Thukten for a year from the premier league for his involvement in a physical assault during a game between Thimphu City FC and Druk Lhayul FC.
Paro FC were crowned the champions of the 2022 Bhutan Premier League as they clenched their third title in five years. The league last year witnessed unusual disagreements and fights between players and referees.
The issue of unsafe archery ranges popped up again. On December 25, a 14-year-old boy was hit by a stray arrow while he was playing volleyball near the Changlimithang archery range. There was a huge public outcry. The Bhutan Indigenous Games and Sports Associations then stopped compound archery at the range.
Sports federations and associations continued promoting sports through training, competitions, and other engagements but the lack of budget and quality infrastructure remain major hurdles.