Athletics: Prime Minister Tshering Tobgay met Naoko Takahashi, an Olympic gold medalist from Japan at the Gyalyong Tshogkhang yesterday, according to a press release from the Prime Minister’s Office.

Welcoming Naoko Takahashi to Bhutan, Lyonchoen thanked her for finding time to visit Bhutan and inspiring Bhutanese women. “You are an inspiration and a hero not just to the Japanese but to the world,” he added.

Takahashi said that Bhutan has the “right conditions for training” and after observing the athletics at the Winter Coaching Camp, she said that Bhutanese athletics have great potential.

Lyonchoen said that Bhutanese by nature have “strong cores” and there is a need to tap into this to create a sporting culture. Takahashi shared that in addition to the “good geographical conditions”, Bhutanese athletes are very competitive and if trained well they will be able to participate in international events.

Lyonchoen said that Bhutanese are fortunate to have the Royal Family, who are very active. His Majesty The King is frequently trekking and hiking – visiting and meeting people living in remote places in the country, Lyonchoen said.

Lyonchoen introduced to Takahashi, 19-year-old Chimi Dema, who won silver in the Snow Man Run last year and said that she has the potential, discipline and courage to perform better. “I will personally groom her,” Lyonchoen said.  The 53km Snow Man Run is a cross-country race that starts from the Gasa hot spring to Langothang, Laya at an altitude of 2,231-4,000 metres above sea level. The Snow Man Run was introduced for the first time in Bhutan in 2016 as part of the Royal Highland Festival. Chimi is currently training for the Bhutan International Marathon in March.

Considering the relation between environment and sports, Takahashi said that she hopes to see “Bhutan become the paradise for sports-loving people.”

Lyonchoen said that he hopes to see international runners visit Bhutan and train here, even if it is for a short while. “I wish to see Japanese runners in particular come and train here so that they can complete the full marathon under two hours in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics,” Lyonchoen said in humor.

Staff reporter