The countdown to the 19th Asian Games, which will be held in the Chinese city of Hangzhou, has begun. With the Games a little over 60 days away, 28 Bhutanese athletes are readying for the sporting extravaganza. This is the highest-ever contingent from Bhutan at the Asian Games. The Bhutanese athletes will compete in 10 disciplines. The Games were supposed to be held last year but were suspended due to rising COVID-19 cases in China.
The Games is set to run from the 23rd of September till the 8th of October.
Bhutanese athletes will be competing in karate, boxing, taekwondo, golf, archery, shooting, swimming, athletics, judo, and badminton events. It will be a debut in judo, swimming, karate, and badminton for Bhutan at the Asian Games.
10 coaches will accompany the 28 athletes. With preparation for the games in full swing, some of the athletes are training in sports complexes abroad.
Currently, four taekwondo players are training at the Kyung-Il University in South Korea, while badminton and swimming athletes are training in Bangkok, Thailand. The rest are undergoing training in the country.
30-year-old Lenchu Kuenzang is one of Bhutan’s hopes for a medal. She will be competing in the 10-metre air rifle category. Lenchu trains six hours daily and has high hopes for the upcoming games.
“I have been shooting for about 10 years. I have received more training and also participated in multiple competitions. I have also participated in the Tokyo Olympic Games and I was able to break my record. To enter the final, I only need about 10 points. Compared to the previous games, I am confident and I hope to break my record,” said Lenchu Kuenzang, an athlete in air rifle.
“I will be competing in the 5,000-metre race. In the past, when I went to the South Asian Games, my personal best time was 17 minutes and 24 seconds. Once again I am in the selection process. Last time, I was busy in college because of my nursing course. Since I was in another district doing an internship, I could not train properly. The federation and BOC want me to beat my previous personal best. If I can beat that, I will be selected for the Asian Games,” said Goma Pradhan, an athlete in the 5,000-metre run.
“I am not so confident as this is the first time judo is being represented from Bhutan at the Asian Games. But in terms of our experience, we have a lot of experience. I have participated in the world championships as well. Moreover, I have participated three times in the South Asian Games. I will work hard and hope to do well,” said Tandin Wangchuk, a judoka.
Similarly, the recurve and compound archery contingent are expecting to perform better this time around. Bhutan has been competing at the Asian Games since the 1986 Games in South Korea, but are yet to win a medal.
“I faced a lot of difficulties when I went out for the first time. The more opportunities we get to compete in international competitions, the more confident we get. We feel the same while training here and when we go outside. When we compete outside time and again, we know our mistakes and can improve for future competitions,” said Sonam Dema, an athlete in recurve archery.
“The best among the best athletes will be participating in the Asian Games. I am confident that I will be able to compete with them,” said Lam Dorji, another athlete in recurve archery.
“There is a lot of difference between those who train and those who do not train. For a person who plays in an archery range of 145 metres, it won’t make much difference even if they play after three to four months. If we do not train 50 metres like we do here, we won’t be able to play well and this needs continuous training,” said Khendrup, an athlete in compound archery.
“We start our training at six in the morning till 10 am. In the evening, we start our training from four till 7 pm. Sometimes, we stay till 8 and 9 pm as there are floodlights installed here. Compared to the past, we are training hard this year. We have experience and we hope to get medals. We are not getting enough time to train, for example, I have to go to the office and three of my friends are doing business, because of that we do not get time to train,” said Tandin Dorji, an athlete in compound archery.
The Asian Games, also known as Asiad, is a continental multi-sport event held every four years among athletes from all over Asia.
More than 10,000 athletes from over 45 countries will compete in 40 sports and 482 categories this year.