Thimphu’s dzongkhag team won the first national karate league, Clash of Champions, yesterday.

Around 77 best karate players from six dzongkhags took part in the three-day long tournament held by Bhutan Karate Association (BKA) with the support from few private agencies.

Samdrupjongkhar came second and Trashigang third.

Winners were given a gold medal and a certificate each. The first runners-up got a silver medal and a certificate each. The second runners-up were awarded a bronze medal and a certificate each.

The game was held in the open space for the first in the country during the league.

Thimphu’s coach Khamsum Choiten said that the competition gave a professional feeling. “I saw the game played in open space for the first time. There were amazing turnouts of the audience,” he said.

He added that his side won the championship because the team had experienced and well-trained players.

“Seven of them are national players and has international game experience. And it is encouraging and motivating to take the title of being champions among the best teams,” he said.

President of BKA, Ugyen Wangchuk, said that it is difficult to attract the audience as the sport is new. “We have to try various ideas to provide youth a right platform and promote the sport.”

He added that the participants were the best players from the dzongkhags. “They need a national level platform and that requires budget. With the agencies flooded with sponsorships, it is difficult to get financial support. We couldn’t even give the winner’s prize money. We conducted the event through the fund that we mobilised from the event.”

Tshering Dekar from Wamrong, Trashigang said that the tournament was the toughest competition she played so far. Winning bronze medal from the league, she collected the fourth karate medal yesterday in two years.

Tshering Wangchuk, 17, from Thimphu, has more than 40 national and international medals. He won gold yesterday. “The league was not that tough, but it had the highest attendance that I ever played in the country. I am happy that we could win the league. It would encourage us to perform better in future.”

Punakha was at the last in the league. Student coach of Punakha, Tshering Dorji, said that his team could not perform better because the club was newly formed.

But, he added, competition held in open space helped the sport reach to the public. “The sport is often mistaken for Taekwondo and Judo as the sport being the combination of martial arts games.”

Eleven dzongkhags has Karate clubs. Only six dzongkhags took part in the league.

The association expects to cover 15 dzongkhags by 2018 and increase its registered players from 2000 to 3000.