Nepali Karate team has a chance to prove themselves as a powerhouse of martial arts again when they take 32 karate to the 13th South Asian Games (SAG) in December.
When karate debuted in the eighth SAG, which was hosted in Kathmandu in 1999, Nepal won record 14 gold medals, one silver and one bronze in karate. It was also a historic year for Nepali sports as they bagged 31 gold medals in five sports disciplines. 14 gold medals came in taekwondo, two in boxing and one in swimming.
However, Nepal’s performance in the later editions of SAG was not quite satisfactory. Since the debut, it has only managed five golds in karate so far. Nepal won one gold, two silvers and three bronzes in ninth SAG held in Pakistan in 2004, two golds, three silvers and five bronzes in the tenth SAG held in Sri Lanka in 2006 and three golds, two silvers and two bronzes in 11th SAG held in Bangladesh in 2010. Karate was not included in 12th SAG (2016) held in India.
Coach Kushal Shrestha is optimistic Nepali karate team can bring more gold than the previous three editions altogether.
“Nepal is a strong team in South Asia. Our players are confident. We can definitely do better than the previous three editions,” said Shrestha, who is also a gold medalist of 10th SAG.
“Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh are other medal favorites. Pakistan has Saadi Abbas Jalbani who is the only gold medalist from South Asia at the Asian Karate Championship. But we can do better,” he added.
Head coach Madan Shrestha was confident Nepal karate will secure at least eight gold medals.
“I am confident we will win at least eight gold medals. This is our target as well,” he said.
The karate players are currently training in a closed camp in Gaushala. They will compete with the karatekas from seven countries for 19 golds: nine in women’s and 10 in men’s category—which includes 50 kg, 55 kg, 60 kg, 67 kg, 75 kg, below 84 kg and above 84 kg weight categories under men’s fight and 45 kg, 50 kg, 55 kg, 61 kg, below 68 kg and above 68 kg weight categories in women’s fight. They will also compete in individual kata, team kata, and team fight events.
The SAG is scheduled to be held in Kathmandu and Pokhara from Dec 1 to 10.