KATHMANDU, May 7: Judo coach Bir Bahadur Rana recalls his glorious days when judo fetched three gold medals for Nepal in the Seventh South Asian Games (SAG), Madras, in 1995.
He was one of the gold medalists to make the country proud when Nepal was able to bag only four golds, the other one from athletics, in the regional sports extravaganza.
But the assiduous player was unjustly denied an opportunity to compete in the following two editions. He has bitter resentments over the then government of Nepal for excluding judo in the home ground during the Eighth SAG 1999. Nepal also failed to garner support for judo in the ninth edition held in Pakistan.
“The government´s decision to drop judo from the eighth SAG has ruined the game. All the players lost motivation after that,” he said.
“Judo had won the highest number of gold for Nepal but it is really sad that our own country excluded it in the following edition. After winning three medals in Madras, should we have included judo in the next edition or not?” he questions.
The 46-year-old coach says that he would have continued playing had he got an opportunity. But he quit after the incident.
Sixteen years after winning gold, he sees good opportunities for the new generation of judo players but he is still cautious that short-term trainings might not be able to emulate the success that he had once achieved.
Rana is once again at the forefront as he is leading twelve judo players to participate in the South Asian Judo Championship 2011 to be held in Pakistan from May 9-15.
“I have given priority to tactics because we didn´t have enough time for training. Training for just 20-25 days won´t be sufficient at this level so we will be playing technical game,” said Rana, who volunteered to train the judokas.
He however is hopeful of reviving the glorious days of judo. “I am definitely expecting medals but I won´t say anything right now,” he said.
He has reasons to expect medals in the tournament, which is equivalent to the SAG, because one of the players, Indira Rai, is the defending champion in women´s U-70 kg category.
Like Rana, Rai was also deprived of participation in the 11th edition of the SAG because the host Bangladesh didn´t include her weight category.
Coach Rana says Rai, who plays for Nepal Police Club (NPC), has improved to some degrees after winning gold in the last edition of the South Asian Judo Championship held in Kathmandu in 2008.
Another promising player is Ramesh Magar (men´s U-66 kg) who was injured in a lift mishap during the 11th SAG in Dhaka. Magar has made a remarkable progress after undergoing a knee surgery in Dhaka. Despite doctors´ warning not to play judo for 15 months after the injury, Magar risked his health during the Fourth National Judo Championship held in Rajbiraj last December and won silver.
Although he still is troubled by the injury, Magar secured the first position in the selection round defeating two armymen and a player of NPC.
The team also includes other veteran players Deepak Krishna Shrestha (men´s U-81 kg), Rajan Joshi (men´s above 100 kg) and Radha Devi Rai (women´s U48 kg) of NPC. All three players had won bronze during the 11th SAG.
Phupu Lhamu Khatri (women´s U-63 kg) is a bronze medalist of the Youth Asian Games. She had defeated a Thai opponent during the Youth Asian Games held in Bangkok last year.
Other players selected are Saroj Maharjan (U-60 kg), Raj Bahadur Chand (U-73 kg) of NPC, Shiva Baram (U-90 kg) of Nepal Army and Allen Maharjan (U-100 kg) in the men´s category.
The players selected in the women´s category are Sushila Adhikari (U-52 kg) and Pramila Khadka (U-57 kg) both from NPC.
Other members of the team are assistant coach Rohit Basnet, referees Chandra Kumar Dangol and Dal Bahadur Gurung; team manager Babu Raja Maharjan and National Sports Council´s journalist Durga Dulal.
Youth and Sports Minister Hit Bahadur Tamang bade farewell to the 18-member team amidst a function at the NSC hall, Tripureshwar on Friday.
Before leaving for Pakistan, Rana said that he will heave a sigh of relief only after getting good results in the tournament.