For the first time, Bhutan will participate in the South Asian cross-country championship which will be held at the Royal Thimphu Golf course today.

Bhutanese male athletes will run 10kms along with competitors, the Asian medalists, Olympians, and South Asian champions, from six other Asian nations and female runners will compete in the 8kms cross-country running.

The six-men team includes winners of Laya run, Bhutan international marathon, and coronation marathon. Four women winners of middle-long distance runners were selected to form national team. The teams practiced for more than two months.

Two winners of 25 km Laya run, Sangay, and Gawa Zangpo that completed the marathon held above 3000mts within 2 hours approximately last year, will be joined by other national middle distance runners Sangay Wangchuk, Nima Yoezer, Tshering Wangchuk and Dechen Ugyen.

Bhutan’s coach Kezang said that athletes have become familiar with the sport. “Although we don’t expect to win any medals, we hope to give our best.”

With the last minute withdrawal of Pakistan, the championship will see six South Asian countries – Bhutan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, India, Nepal and the Maldives participating.

India is considered the strongest team. Indian women team consists of the bronze medallist at the 14th Asian cross-country championship held in China last month. The men’s team has the runner who came fourth in the same championship.

India’s coach Vijendra Singh said that his team was confident to win the championship. “We hope that we will be the champions. However, we will be able to see the winners once we reach the finish line.”

The Maldives coach said that his team could not include the best athletes as they had to prepare for Asian games scheduled in August this year.

Bangladesh will also have its men’s team participate in the cross country running for the first time.

Bangladesh team captain said that the team did not get enough time to build on the squad. “The result does not matter much as we’re here to promote regional harmony through athletics,” he said. “Participation is also important.”

Entering the championship as one of the favorite teams, Sri Lanka, ranked 10th in the Asian cross-country race has Asian medalists and national winners representing the country.

Sri Lanka’s two national athletes, Rajpaksha Mudiyanselage Samantha Pushpa Kumara and Rathnayaka Nilani earned a spot each to take part in Asian competitions after winning the 44th national cross-country championship last month.

However, the duo took part in this race as independent athletes and was not allowed for any awards by the Department of Sports Development. They also represented Sri Lanka in Asian cross-country championship held in China last week.

Sri Lanka’s coach Nobert Perera said that his team consists of the best track and field runners, and middle distance runners. “We have the best team and we will try our best.”

The championship will also see Nepal which is ranked 19th in Asian cross-country running, fields Nepal’s armed force athletes today.

Nepal’s four-men team includes athletes from armed forces who won the top three positions respectively in open half marathon held in Kathmandu last month.

Nepal’s women’s team include Reshu Basnet of Nepali Army and Bindra Dhanke Shrestha of Armed Police Force who secured top three positions at the national open half marathon.

Team led by a coach, Amiri Prasad Yadav will take part in the South Asian cross-country running for the first time.

Nepal’s coach Amiri Prasad said that the toughest team in the championship would be India and Sri Lanka.

“We are here to try for the bronze medal but not the gold.”

He said that the event would help Bhutan prepare better future athletes.

The event will host a total of 43 athletes, of which 16 are  women.