Thinley Namgay

The newly built Thimphu Aquatic Centre is silent.

A group of teenage boys are swimming rigorously. Kunzang Sangay Tenzing and Tenzin Dendup Dorji, along with three friends, came to swim for an hour and a half yesterday.

Kunzang and Tenzin, both high school graduates, are  teaching swimming to their friends. They are here for  a quality time together.

With not many visitors today, the boys moved freely in the eight-lane 25-metre pool.

For Kunzang, swimming is more enjoyable than staying home watching television or playing video games. Although he doesn’t aspire to become a professional swimmer, he is determined to pursue it as a leisure activity.

Aquatic centre in Babena,Thimphu

Each boy has paid a fee of Nu 500 for one and a half hours. Kunzang notes that the fee is reasonable compared to some hotels that charge a minimum of Nu 700 for the same duration.

The boys seem very satisfied with the facility. The water was clean, the surroundings tidy, and safety ropes were in place.

Coach Karma Dorji ensures the swimmers’ safety. The colorful banners and the graming seats inside add to the centre’s appeal.

Tenzin Dendup Dorji, a basketball player, believes swimming enhances his basketball performance. “Swimming is good exercise and builds stamina. More than that, it’s always fun to swim with friends,” he says.

The centre, he adds, has the potential to produce swimmers who can represent Bhutan in international tournaments.

The Thimphu Aquatic Centre was inaugurated last month and opened to the public on June 1.

Head coach Naman Jakhmola from India says that the response to coaching is promising. “Within a few days, nine people registered for coaching, including three women.”

He expects more registrations in the coming days. “I’m currently teaching basic swimming skills three times a week, which will then progress to advanced levels.”

Naman Jakhmola believes that although the swimming culture in Bhutan is limited, this well-equipped centre could change the trend in a few years.

Membership fees for adults range between Nu 4,000 and 9,000, depending on the duration. For students, the fee ranges between Nu 1,800 and Nu 4,000.

For leisure swimming for one hour and 30 minutes, the fee is Nu 500 for adults and Nu 200 for students.

Coach Karma Dorji says that the centre will become more user-friendly after adding a few more facilities. Two new heating systems will be installed soon. A canteen and a shop will also be available.

“That will, of course, require more staff at the centre,” says Karma Dorji. “The centre will serve as an important training hub to nurture talented swimmers. We have plans to host international tournaments in the future.”

Currently, two national swimmers are training in Thailand. Officials are optimistic that their expertise will help develop swimming in Bhutan.