Thinley Namgay 

In a historic moment for Bhutan, three judokas from the Bhutan Judo Association (BJA) are poised to make their debut at the upcoming Asian Games in China, marking the first-ever participation by the country in the prestigious event.

With intensive training led by Japanese coach Yuki Fukui, the athletes have been honing their skills since early this year at the Pelkhil School in Thimphu. As the anticipation builds, the judokas are eager to showcase their prowess on the international stage.

The selected athletes, who have dedicated nearly 12 years to the sport, bring a wealth of experience to the competition. One such contender is Tandin Wangchuk, 25, hailing from Thimphu. Tandin has represented Bhutan in several international tournaments, gaining invaluable exposure and strategic insights along the way.

Notably, he clinched a gold medal and was hailed as the best player in an international competition held in Nepal in 2014 and Singapore in 2016. Moreover, Tandin has made his mark in the South Asian Games, securing a bronze medal in 2019.

Reflecting on his journey, he expressed both excitement and anxiety, noting the high expectations bestowed upon him as a senior and experienced judoka. He said,

“If we win medals in the Asian Games, it is akin to winning at the Olympics, given the formidable presence of countries like South Korea and Japan. I will give my utmost to achieve the best results.”

Joining Tandin is Kinley Tshering who has also showcased his talent in numerous international tournaments. Kinley’s achievements include a bronze medal at the

2019 South Asian Games in Nepal.

In preparation for the upcoming Asian Games, Tandin and Kinley studied sport management and trained at the esteemed SEISA Dhoto University in Japan from 2019 until March of this year. During their time inJapan, they both secured bronze medals in the Japan Student’s  Championship, further adding to their credentials.

Optimistic about the challenges that lie ahead, Kinley said, “The Asian Games will undoubtedly test our mettle, but we are diligently preparing to ensure an exemplary performance. Even if I do not win a medal, my aim is to secure a position within the top 10 contenders.”

Ngawang Namgyel, another talented judoka, emphasised that international competitions have been limited in recent years due to the pandemic. However, he said that the team was on track for the Asian Games.

Ngawang’s  most recent appearance was in the Kuwait Asian Open, where the result did not meet his expectations. Despite the challenges posed by a lack of training partners within the BJA, the judokas are steadfast in their commitment to training, driven by their unwavering passion for the sport.

Ngawang, expressing his enthusiasm for the Asian Games, said, “I am excited to compete on this grand stage.”

Coach Yuki Fukui exudes confidence in his team as he concentrates on their physical development, stamina, and judo techniques. In addition to their rigorous training regimen, Fukui emphasises the importance of maintaining a strong mentality in the face of demanding competition.

With high hopes for his athletes, Fukui boldly predicts, “I expect all three of them to secure a medal.”