Thinley Dorji is Bhutan’s first gold medalist of the World Bodybuilding and Physique Sports championship

Standing on the victory podium with the national anthem in the background, his torso wrapped with the national flag and a gold medal around his neck. That was Thinley Dorji’s dream three years ago.

Today, he is the first Bhutanese athlete to win a gold and a bronze medal from a world championship. He is a gold medalist of the ninth World Bodybuilding and Physique Sports (WBPF) championship held earlier this month in Mongolia. It was his fourth attempt.

However, this is not the first time that Thinley Dorji was crowned champion. The 25-year-old from Trongsa won gold and bronze medals at the Asian championship and was among the top five contenders in the previous championship held last year.

Thinley Dorji said his dream was to win the Mr Bhutan title before the age of 25.

“I feel proud of myself. I’ve won the biggest championship at 25 and I am extremely happy that I excelled beyond my dream,” the gold medalist said.

At the WBPF championship this year, Thinley Dorji appeared on the stage wearing an outfit of a Roman gladiator made of the locally produced Yathra, a traditional material made of wool. The woolen tunic and apron of Yathra strips slightly covered his toned body. A sword in his hand, he was the Bhutanese version of a gladiator.

“I got an idea of appearing myself like a Bhutanese warrior. I thought of wearing a gho at first but it was inconvenient for me to perform flips and gymnastics on stage. So I designed the outfit,” he said.

The best moment of the championship for him was when the floor rose for the national anthem.

“When I worked out in the gym, I listen to it and that kept me motivated. Winning a medal is just the validation that I have worked hard but winning it for the country was an immense feeling of achievement,” said Thinley Dorji.

The gold medalist said that he first saw the sport on television when he was in primary school.

Thinley Dorji hit an old small gym in Gelephu since he was 18. He picked the weights randomly and tried the dumbbells. He was at the gym thrice a day, thinking that the repeated workout would help him gain a hulky body.

The athletic champion joined the gym professionally while studying in Punjab, India. The college where had a trend of organising annual bodybuilding competitions. From being a winner in athletic physique in the first year, he won the Mr Punjab College of Technical Education title in the final year.

He stood ninth in his debut at the national bodybuilding championship in 2014 and third the following year. He didn’t compete in the national championship this year after he suffered a shoulder injury while preparing for the world championship in 2016. He resumed training after a few months break.

“It’s my passion and this is what I love to do. Whether I win a medal or not, next day I will be at the gym,” said Thinley Dorji.

He said that many people talk about retirement after winning the world championship. “ I feel it’s the beginning for me.”