High Olympic hopes for Nepal's taekwondo team

Medal in 1988 has boosted sport's popularity and given rise to a generation of champions despite the limited facilities.

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    Kathmandu - Nepal won its first and only Olympic medal in 1988 and it came in taekwondo, giving rise to a new generation of athletes who have become champions in the sport.

    There are an estimated 65,000 Nepalese regularly involved, and the national team has high hopes in the run-up to the games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in August. 

    But the immediate goal for the Nepal team is to win the South Asian Games which opened in India on Friday.

    In the capital Kathmandu, sports enthusiasts including taekwondo come to Nepal's national stadium every morning.

    Kalyan Kunwar coaches both children and adult taekwondo athletes, and some of his students have won international championships.

    At 11, Kunwar's pupil, Sanu Kanchi Tamang, is full of dreams.

    "I want to play Taekwondo and win gold medals. I have participated in few games," Tamang told Al Jazeera.

    Nepal does not have much of a presence in international sports but since winning an Olympic bronze in 1988, taekwondo has been an exception.

    With limited facilities, Nepali players have a disadvantage.

    "From the beginning, Nepali players have to face difficulties. It’s worse for girls as their families and even the society throw obstacles," said Sangina Baidya, one of three Nepali qualifiers in taekwondo in previous Olympics.

    "Our training is poor. Players abroad have better equipment, indoor training facilities. We just play 'rough and tough'. But we still compete internationally and we never compromise on our performance."

    Now the World Taekwondo Federation has taken interest in helping Nepali players, offering to coach children in earthquake-hit areas.

    Nepal's government also has plans to make taekwondo into a national sport.

    "Once they put the taekwondo in national sports, then they have very good chance to win some medals and championships and also Olympic games," Chungwon Choue, president of the World Taekwondo Federation, told Al Jazeera.

    "So I believe we can give them a dream and hope, and also the top level of athletes, we can invite them to South Korea."

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera


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