Thinley Namgay

Bhutan Olympic Committee (BOC) will dispatch a large contingent of athletes to contest at the 13th South Asian Games (SAG) in Nepal between December 1 and 10.

Bhutan competes with six other nations from the SAARC excluding Afghanistan.

The delegation comprises of 117 athletes and 28 officials, including 31 female participants.

Of the 27 different sports in this year’s SAG, Bhutan will participate in 14 sports – archery, athletics, badminton, basketball, boxing, cricket, football, golf, judo,  karate,  shooting, taekwondo, tennis and weightlifting. There are no women teams for cricket, football, golf, judo and tennis.

BOC’s Programme Officer, Jigme Thinley said that from March to June, potential athletes were given preliminary training and then selected the contest.  “From July to November, the respective federations carried out intensive training for the selected athletes.”

“Taekwondo, karate and archery are BOC’s best hopes to win the medals this time,” he said.

Bhutan Taekwondo Federation (BTF) brought 12 medals including three gold and four silver from the ninth Tirak Taekwondo International Championship held at Bangkok on October 26 competing with more than 1,000 athletes from 22 countries.

In an earlier interview BTF’s coach, Pem Choki said that the national taekwondo players   practise three times a day for the SAG.

“Our morning timing is from 5:30am-7am and then we start the second practise session from 10am-12pm. The evening timing is from 6pm- 8pm,” said coach Pem Choki, adding that she has confidence for the participants. For SAG, 12 taekwondo players comprising of six men and six women will compete in the event.

Bhutan Karate Association also brought home five medals from the South Asian Karate Championship in Bangladesh earlier this month.

Through the SEISA group of Japan exchange programme, Bhutan Archery Federation trained their archers for the SAG. Archers also participated in tournaments in Japan and the Netherlands this year.

The SAG is held once every two years. The 12th SAG was held at Guwahati and Shillong in India in 2016.

BOC’s Programme Officer, Jigme Thinley said that only 166 candidates including athletes and officials took part in the 12th SAG in 2016. “This time we are taking basketball team comprising of both men and women and also the cricket team.”

“SAG is the basis to participate in the Asian Games and Olympics. If we do well in SAG, we will get more opportunity to participate in the Asian Games and Olympics,” said Jigme Thinley.

To participate in the SAG government has approved Nu 9 million (M). The Nu 4M was for preparation and Nu 5M is for participation. BOC has to give USD 35 per athlete every day and the remaining expenditure will be borne by the organising committee. The first group of Bhutanese athletes will travel to Nepal on November 30.

The first SAG was held in Kathmandu, Nepal in 1984.