Bhutanese taekwondo athlete, Sonam Yangtsho, was a win short from registering the country’s first medal in the ongoing Asian Games when she was defeated 35-0 in the quarterfinals in Jakarta yesterday.     

After an impressive performance in her first fight against Sonesavanh Sirimanotham of Laos, the 18-year-old was up against the Chinese rank number one, Mengyu Zheng, in the quarterfinals of the under 67kg category. 

The Bhutanese athlete was under matched physically and experience-wise against the Chinese. While Zheng successfully made eight direct hits to the head, Sonam Yangtsho failed to register a single point in the two rounds.

Sonam Yangtsho bagged a bronze during the 12th South Asian Games in 2016.   

In the men’s category, Tenzin Dorji, was defeated 40-54 by Sagar Guvaju of Nepal.

Tenzin Dorji led the first two rounds but lost the lead in the dying minute of the second round when the Nepalese athlete had a successful hit on Tenzin’s headgear.

National taekwondo coach, Pem Choki, however, said that her players performed well. “After winning the first fight, I was really hoping that Sonam Yangtsho could go further in the competition,” she said. “But at the same time, we had to be realistic since we were placed against the top Chinese player in the next round.”

Pem Choki said the young athletes require more exposure games to build their confidence and to help them improve their gameplay. “Because Sonam was facing a top Chinese player, she hesitated which then affected her performance,” she said. “If our players are provided with enough pre-competition games, we would definitely see a huge improvement during international competitions. Exposure matters a lot.”

It was learnt that the three female taekwondo athletes, who are students, underwent some six months training in Thimphu before the games. The five men athletes, however, were sent to Korea for about three months to prepare for the Asian Games.

“We still have high hopes from the rest of our players. They have practised well and we expect them to perform better in the upcoming games,” said the national coach.   

Meanwhile, team China is leading the medal tally with 15 gold, 11 silver and nine bronze as of 8pm (BST) yesterday. The host nation, Indonesia, is in fourth place with four gold, two silver and two bronze medals.  

Younten Tshedup | Jakarta