Sangay Khandu is anxiously waiting for his fight against one of the elite taekwondo players of Jampeling Central School. Although he would be fighting against a senior athlete, the 11-year-old remains undaunted.

The final fight is scheduled four bouts later but he cannot sit still or relax. “I can do this,” said Sangay Khandu. “All of us here are top players from our schools. Age should not matter as long as you have the will. I can win this fight.”

As the two athletes enter the stage for the fight, Sangay Khandu loses the first round against a much-taller opponent. In an equally fought battle of the second round, Sangay gets back to win the match.

A series of back and front kicks mixed with some side-kicks (Yeop Chagi) entertains the crowd at the Trashigang Sports Association hall. A roundhouse kick (Dollyo Chagi) ultimately seals the deal for Sangay Khandu who said it was one of his favourite kicks.

A total of 231 students including 106 females from nine schools and a college took part at the 12th Intra-School Taekwondo Competition in Trashigang that ended yesterday. This was by far the highest participation observed at the annual competition organised by the Trashigang Dzongkhag Sports Association (DSA).

Participation from schools has been increasing in the dzongkhag annually. Since the current coach of the DSA, Hem Raj Monger, took over in 2014, seven more schools have joined the competition.

Hem Raj Monger said that all schools in the dzongkhag have a taekwondo club.

Kinley Wangmo, a class XI student of Jigme Sherubling Central School said that the game not only promotes healthy lifestyle but also provides self-defence techniques, especially to women.

“Taekwondo is for both men and women. For women it is more important as it teaches important techniques to protect ourselves during times of threat,” said the 17-year-old. “Our society should encourage more women participation in taekwondo and help promote the sport.”

In order to provide match exposure, the tournament this year allowed 10 athletes from Sherubtse College (three female and seven male) to contest in the competition. “College students hardly get opportunities to compete in a tournament. We wanted to provide them with an opportunity to sharpen their skills and also offer them with match exposure,” said Hem Raj Monger.

Considered to be one of the biggest tournaments in the dzongkhag for selections into the national team, the two-day tournament did not see the use of the recently introduced electronic technology at the competition.

The e-headgear and e-chest-guard, which were introduced in the country in 2016 and 2010 respectively to detect foot techniques to validate scores, were not used at the competition.

“We requested the federation to send in some of the gears for the tournament but they never came,” said Hem Raj Monger. “When scoring is done manually, sometimes the results are not accurate. Because we have only a handful of judges, at times they miss out on some crucial points.”

He also said that although a majority of students are interested to participate in a competition, lack of fund becomes a challenge for the DSA to organise tournaments more frequently.

The coach said that with a budget of Nu 100,000, it becomes challenging to conduct competitions for large number of participants. “If the authorities concerned can plan the budget according to number of schools and participants in a dzongkhag, it would become more convenient.”

Meanwhile, in the senior category, Jampeling Central School stood first with 54 points. Jigme Sherubling CS took the second position with 48 points followed by Trashigang MSS.

In the junior category, with 47 points Jigme Sherubling CS bagged the first prize followed by Rangjung CS and Trashigang MSS with 36 and 34 points.

Sixteen of the most potential athletes will represent Trashigang at the dzongkhag-level competition later in December this year.

Younten Tshedup | Trashigang