SAG: If there is one event where Bhutanese athletes could return with medals from the upcoming South Asian Games next month, it is taekwondo.

Preparing his team at the swimming pool sports complex, national coach of Bhutan Taekwondo Federation (BTF), Tashi, is expecting his team to bring home medals from the games that begin from February 5 at neighbouring Shilong and Guwahati.

The 13-member team who would be participating from lightweight to heavyweight category is undergoing rigorous training, six hours a day. Coach Tashi said that eight boys were trained for five months and five girls who have been trained for a month will compete with participants from India, Afghanistan, Nepal, Sri-Lanka and Bangladesh. Maldives is not taking part in taekwondo.

Coach Tashi confidence stems from the fact that some of the participants have participated at international or regional levels while some won medals in the past. One of the women participants, Pelden Dema, 16, won bronze at the Mount Everest International Open Taekwondo Championship in Nepal in 2014.

Doten Dorji, a bronze medalist from Nepal and quarterfinalist at the Asian Games in South Korea in 2014 is confident of winning a medal at the games. “I can expect tough opponents, but I am still optimistic to win,’’ Doten Dorji said.

Four players are taking part in a regional tournament for the first time. Coach Tashi expects Afghanistan to be the toughest opponents, as some of them competed at the Olympic level.

But first timer Chiranjaveir Adhikari is not deterred. “I could not compete in international tournaments because of my studies,” he said. “After all the training and hard work I am doing now, I am confident to win a medal even if it is my first time.”

Jambay Tshoglay Tshering