KATHMANDU, Oct 27: Looking back at the records of the Asian Games, taekwondo is one of the sports from which Nepal has high expectations.
It is the only game to have fetched silver medal for Nepal in the Asian level. Sabita Rajbhandari clinched the prestigious medal, which still remains elusive for other Nepali athletes, in the 1998 Asiad held in Bangkok.
Once again, female taekwondo players are at the forefront in the run up to the 16th Asian Games scheduled for November 12-27 in Guangzhou, China as Nepal´s Korean coach Kwan Yung Dal believes that the damsels are likely to win medals in the sporting extravaganza.
Manita Shahi, a silver medalist in the 11th South Asian Games (SAG), has been in a good form in recent times having won gold in the Sixth International Korea Open last month. Shahi won silver medal in the recently concluded All India Open Taekwondo Championship too.
Ayasha Shakya, 11th SAG gold medalist, and bronze medalist Yan Kumari Chaulagain are also setting up the pace with silver medals in the Korea Open.
Taekwondo ace Sangina Baidya, the first Nepali athlete to qualify for the Olympics through selection tournament, says female players are doing well in the international level because they have become tough as they have been fighting with the boys in training.
"They always fight with the boys, train along with them. So they won´t have any problems facing girls even at the international level," said Baidya, who won gold in the Asian Championship in 1996.
Baidya, who couldn´t compete in the Asiad due to injury in an accident, said that male players, on the other hand, have not been able to prosper because of the lack of competitive partners at present.
Although the overall situation is not grim for the male players, Baidya says that they can do much better if they get training abroad, which would also familiarize the players with the new electronic technology that will be in use in the Asiad.
Coach Kwan shares the same view. "The players don´t have sparring partners here. This training is not sufficient for the Asian Games because it is as tough as the Olympics," he said.
He is hopeful of medals from the experienced players but half of the 12 players selected for the Asiad are new comers. The coach says he cannot evaluate them without watching them clash with foreign players. The outcome also depends upon the tie-sheet.
"The players might crash out if they face tough opponents in the beginning. They need to play at the international level to evaluate their strengths. Here we cannot evaluate them because each one knows the opponent´s style," he said.
Speed, tactics and mind game play an important role in the bouts, according to the coach, but exposure is also vital.
Baidya says the players know the attacking style, counterattacks and weaknesses of each other, so the training here won´t be fruitful. She terms it "unfortunate" that the players have not been able to go for training abroad due to lack of budget.
"The players have also been complaining that the electronic sensors don´t beep however hard they strike. This is because they don´t have much practice with the new system," Baidya added.
Hemant Dangi, chief office secretary of Nepal Taekwondo Association (NTA), said NTA is making last bid efforts to send the players abroad for training.
"Although it wouldn´t bring any miraculous change, it would definitely help the players acclimatize in China," he said.
"We have submitted a new proposal after our first proposal of Rs 7 million was not answered by the National Sports Council. We haven´t quoted any amount but have requested to send the players to Guangzhou for two weeks´ training ahead of the Asiad. A decision will be taken as soon as NSC Member Secretary Hari Babu Chaudhari arrives back in the capital from Guangzhou," he said.
The taekwondo players selected for the Asiad are Yan Kumari Chaulagain (U-46 kg), Laxmi Rana (U-49 kg), Ayasha Shakya (U-53 kg), Sabina Maharjan (U-57 kg), Manita Shahi (U-63 kg) and Rasana KC (U-67 kg) in the female category. The players selected in the male category are Kumar Manandhar (U-54 kg), Sujan Pujari (U-58 kg), Sujan Joshi (U-63 kg), Ashish Maharjan (U-68 kg), Dan Bahadur Aire (U-74 kg) and Yadav Paudel (U-80 kg).