Thinley Namgay

As the prestigious Asian Games (AG) draw near, the eyes of the Bhutanese sports community are fixed on two seasoned and accomplished swimmers, Sangay Tenzin and Kinley Lhendup, from the Bhutan Aquatics Federation. Both athletes will represent their country in the highly anticipated AG, set to take place in China this September.

Sangay Tenzin is set to compete in the 100 meters (m) and 200m freestyle categories, while Kinley Lhendup will feature in the 200m individual medley and 100m butterfly events.

In preparation for the AG, both swimmers are set to participate in the world swimming championship in Japan, scheduled from July 23 to 28. This international competition will serve as a crucial stepping stone for their performance at the highly competitive AG.

Kinley Lhendup

Swimming is a budding sport in Bhutan that gained momentum in recent years, thanks in part to the notable participation of athletes like Sangay Tenzin and Kinley Lhendup in major international tournaments. Their selection to represent Bhutan at the prestigious AG stands as a testament to the growing interest and dedication of Bhutanese youths in swimming.

The duo has undergone rigorous training since 2019 at a center in Phuket, Thailand, alongside swimmers from more than 12 countries, with support from FINA, the International Swimming Federation. Under the guidance of coach Alexander Tikhonov, a former Russian swimmer, Sangay and Kinley train for 10 sessions a week, encompassing four hours of swimming each day, in addition to four gym sessions. Their training regimen also includes monthly monitoring of their body composition by nutritionists.

With almost four years of professional training under their belt, the Bhutanese swimmers are expected to deliver impressive performances at the AG, taking on formidable competitors from across Asia.

Sangay Tezin has already amassed considerable international experience, having participated in seven international competitions. At the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, he achieved a personal best record of 57.57 seconds (secs) in the 100m freestyle. His performance at the 2022 swimming championship in Budapest, Hungary, where he finished the 100m freestyle in 57.4 secs, surpassing his own Olympics record, stands as his best performance on the international stage to date.

Confident and determined, the 19-year-old from Sarpang, Sangay Tenzin, expressed his readiness for the upcoming AG. “Training is on track, and I hope I can give my best,” he said. While aiming to perform better than his previous appearances, he acknowledges the formidable challenge that lies ahead, with swimming powerhouses like China, Japan, and Singapore dominating the field.

For Kinley Lhendup, the 19-year-old athlete from Thimphu, the championship in Japan serves as an opportunity to assess his readiness for the AG. With the 65th Malaysia Open Swimming Championships 2023 in March boosting his confidence, he recognises the competitiveness of the AG. At the Malaysia Open, he achieved commendable results in various events, including the 50m freestyle in 2.81 secs, 400m freestyle in 4 minutes (mins) 44 secs, 100m backstroke in 1 min and 10 secs, 200m butterfly in 2 mins and 34 secs, and 400 individual medley in 5 mins and 32 secs.

In addition to regular training, swimmers like Kinley Lhendup focus on enhancing breath control endurance, body strength, and mental flexibility, understanding the vital role these factors play in their performance.

Like his fellow swimmer Sangay Tenzin, Kinley aims to surpass his past records and deliver a stellar performance at the AG, regardless of medal outcomes.