Nineteen-year-old Phub Zam Monger became the first judoka from Bhutan to win a medal in international judo competition, when she bagged a bronze in women’s 48kg category last week in Nepal.

Of the five judokas that took part in the senior level eighth South Asian Judo Championship in Nepal, Phub Zam Monger was the lone athlete to win home a medal.

Phub Zam Monger, a class XII student of Pelkhil high school played against three other judokas from Nepal, and Pakistan. She defeated a player from Nepal in the first match and lost her second match to Pakistan.

In her race for the bronze medal, she defeated another player from Nepal to win the country’s first senior-level bronze on April 21.

Phub Zam Monger said she was excited. “I have to work harder and train hard to achieve better results.”

She added that stamina and fitness level were at par with international judokas. “It was techniques and hand power that we lag,” she said. “We expect better results in future competitions.”

There were eight judokas competing in the 48kg category from India, Pakistan, Bhutan, Nepal, and Sri Lanka.

Two male judokas from Bhutan won fifth place in 60 and 81kg categories. However, the remaining two judokas finished last in the respective category of 66 and 73kg categories.

The five-member team led by Bhutan Judo Association (BJA) took part in the championship, which saw 102 players, for the first time.

The association currently run by volunteers took part in one international competition before taking part in the eighth South Asian championship. The ninth edition will be held in Bangladesh.

Created in Japan as a physical, mental and moral method and practice of teaching, the sport is believed to be more than a century old. However, it is a fairly new sport in the country.

Started in the country as a Judo club in 2010 by Pelkhil School, most of the players in the association are below 20 years. BJA got affiliated with Bhutan Olympic Committee in 2015.

BJA President, Karma L Dorji, said the association has no other judo clubs to compete in the country. “Without good opposition, it was impossible to improve skills. The only alternative was to go abroad and compete in international tournaments.” He however, said that it was expensive to participate in such competitions.

The officials said it was difficult to organise grassroots programme owing to huge expenditure on judo mats and attire.

Karma L Dorji said it would take about five years for the association to have a good number of coaches to be placed in clubs and in different parts of the country.

“The development of judo must be slow and measured if the quality is to remain high,” he said.

Kodokan Judo Institute in Japan, All Japan Judo Federation, and Bhutan Olympic committee supports the association.