Nepal's dream of bringing home a gold medal in paragliding shattersThe adventure sport, on which the country was pinning gold medal hopes after winning silver at the Asian Games last year, was excluded from the regional event due to inadequate participation.
Nepal’s aspirations for gold at the 13th South Asian Games suffered a major dint after the adventure sport was excluded from the regional sports extravaganza due to inadequate participation.
Based on the initial schedule of the Games, the paragliding event was supposed to commence a day prior to its official inauguration but was removed from the Games altogether on December 25.
Lamenting about the absence of the sport from the mega spectacle, Nepal paragliding captain BimalAdhikari said the team’s dreams met with a cruel fate. “We were confident of winning all eight gold medals in the paragliding event,” he said. “Now that we will not be playing, we are left as mere spectators.”
Paragliding was the only discipline where Nepal earned medals at the 18th Asian Games in Jakarta and Palembang. The adventure sport had made its debut at the Asiad last year.
The Nepal Olympic Committee had decided to include paragliding at the SAG to promote the adventure and competitive sport. Using the right of the host nation to include two sports, Nepal had picked paragliding along with cricket for the Games. The decision had excited the gliders, coaches and paragliding enthusiasts.
Nepali gliders say they were confident of making the best use of their Asian Games’ experience to contest for eight gold medals in men’s and women’s individual and team events in accuracy and cross-country categories. They were optimistic until the very end also because of several assurances by Nepal Olympic Committee President Jeevan Ram Shrestha and National Sports Council member secretary Ramesh Kumar Silwal that the sport will be included in the event.
Both sporting bodies had reiterated their efforts to fund accommodation, food, transport and training for the participating foreign teams. Despite their commitments, nations including India did not register for the events even after promising their participation. By November 20, Pakistan was the only country to file for their participation alongside Nepal.
Nepal’s paragliding association had proposed to provide training facilities for Bangladesh and Bhutan but the two neighbours chose not to participate.
The event was finally scrapped because at least three participating nations were required for it to be held.
Nepali gliders had been preparing for the Games since earlier this summer. A total of 14 men and eight women were picked and the final Nepal team was trimmed to five men and three women.
“Both India and Pakistan have good gliders. But India hesitated to participate considering Nepal’s prowess and medal potential,” said Adhikari, the national captain who led the nation to glory last year.
Not many South Asian nations have official paragliding associations. Most paragliding events are held at club levels. “Nepal would have had a better ranking in the medal tally if paragliding was included. India understood this and decided not to participate,” said ShailendraRaut, general secretary for Nepal Paragliding and Handgliding Association.
Indian pilot Ajay Sharma, who has been gliding in Pokhara for the past decade, even travelled to New Delhi to convince Indian Olympic Committee officials about the country’s participation in the paragliding event. But despite his effort, it fell short.
Nepali gliders have their own plight to share. With no support from the government, they had to fund themselves for their training. The NSC had promised that it would provide two sets of gears if the sport had been included at the Games. Preparations were underway for a foreign training for the gliders as well.
But a delay in the release of necessary funds for paragliding had obstructed the construction of infrastructures for the sport. As the sport was ruled out from the Games, works for building the required structures did not even see the light of the day.
Yogesh Bhattarai, the national coach for the sport, says lapses in coordination with the Olympic Committees of the South Asian nations was the main reason for the exclusion of the sport. “Nepal is a force in the sport in South Asia,” Bhattarai said. “Paragliding probably would have earned the highest number of medals for the country.”