Ten athletes who caught the imagination of the home crowd in 2019Swimming sensation Gaurika Singh became Nepal's most decorated athlete, taking her South Asian Games' medal tally to 13.
With a haul of 51 gold medals at the 13th South Asian Games, Nepal have surpassed their previous best of 31 gold medals in a single edition of the regional sports meet. While a few athletes bettered their personal records in terms of the number of medals won, others had their maiden top-of-the- podium success. Here’s a lowdown on ten Nepali athletes who stood out to enthral the nation.
Gaurika Singh - Swimming
Gaurika Singh began and ended the 13th South Asian Games with a bang, as she claimed her fourth gold, winning the women’s 100m freestyle on the final day of the swimming events of the Games.
Only a couple of seconds separated the top two swimmers. Singh won the race in a photo-finish at 58.13 seconds, two seconds ahead of India’s Shivangi Sharma. The win made Singh the first and youngest Nepali athlete to pocket four gold medals in a single edition of the Games. Ace taekwondo player Deepak Bista had won four consecutive South Asian Games gold medals in 1999, 2004, 2006 and 2010.
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Singh also anchored Nepal to a bronze medal in the women’s 400m medley relay alongside Duana Lama, Tisa Shakya and Anushiya Tandukar.
Two silver and three bronze medals in the Games made her the most decorated Nepali athlete ever with a tally of 13 medals at the South Asian Games. She had won a silver and three bronze medals at the 2016 Games in India.
Manday Kaji Shrestha - Karate
Karateka Manday Kaji Shrestha clinched two gold medals as Nepal got off to a flying start in the martial arts discipline. Karatekas set the tone for the host country’s gold rush at the event, clinching seven out of nine gold medals on offer at the South Asian Games. The 35-year-old secured top podium finishes in men’s individual kata and team kata, becoming the first Nepali athlete to win double gold in the Games. Though athlete Rajendra Bhandari had secured two gold medals in 2006 Colombo Games, his medals were scrapped after he failed a doping test. Shrestha scored 25.72 points against Pakistan’s Niamatuliah’s 24.92 in the individual kata final. Nepal’s kata team, which also included Mahasus Tamang and Prabin Manandhar, scored 25.54 to edge Sri Lanka who scored 25.28 points.
Subash Tamang - Golf
Teenage golfer Subash Tamang became the third player to win two gold medals for Nepal at the 13th South Asian Games. He finished top in the men’s individual and team event in the golf competition at the par-72 Gokarna Golf Club.
Tamang carded 3-under 69 in the final round for a total of 14-under 274 in the competition played under the stroke-play format. He registered an eight-stroke win over Bangladesh’s Md Fahrad who carded four-under 68 in the final round for a total of two-under 282.
Until five years ago, the fourth-grade dropout used to hang around the Royal Nepal Golf Course, watching golfers play. Whenever the balls were out of bounds, he would fetch them.
After a year at the golf course, Tamang started practising shots whenever he had an opportunity. And before long, Tamang was spotted by Tashi Ghale, the president of Nepal Golf Association while he was trying some shots. He also won a silver medal for the Nepal Army at the 8th National Games in April.
Gopi Chandra Parki - Athletics
Gopi Chandra Parki reclaimed glory for Nepal in the men’s 5,000-metre race, quelling challenges of Indian and Sri Lankan runners. The 30-year-old crossed the finish line clocking 14 minutes 54.20 seconds to beat Indian’s Sunar Dawar, who came in second at 14:55.21. Nepal’s Hari Kumar Rimal came home third at 14:57.05. Parki’s winning time in the race, however, was far behind Rajendra Bhandari’s national record of 14:04.89, set at the Athens Olympics in 2004. The win made Parki the first Nepali male athlete to grab a gold in a middle-distance race at these Games—a goal he had set his eyes on ten years ago.
Bhupendra Thapa - Boxing
Nepal broke the 20-year winless streak in boxing in the South Asian Games as Bhupendra Thapa recorded a stunning victory over India’s Manish Kaushik, a Commonwealth Games silver medalist.
Having lost twice to Indian boxers at the All India Boxing Championships in 2017 and 2018, the 30-year-old pugilist was determined to put those blots behind him. The Nepali Police constable’s victory in the men’s light welterweight (64kg) was the country’s first boxing gold in two decades. Nepal had failed to win a boxing gold at the regional event since Prakash Thapa Magar, the current coach, and Ram Chandra Thapa Magar claimed the top podium finishes when the country hosted the Games in 1999.
Nima Gharti Magar - Wushu
Nima Gharti Magar earned a gold medal in women’s wushu all-round nandao taolu event for Nepal. Gharti Magar got the better of Morzina Akther of Bangladesh 18.91-16.30 in the final clash to successfully defend the title from the 12th edition of the Games at Guwahati.
Gharti Magar, who took wushu when she was in the seventh grade at the insistence of her father, was one of the only two Nepali gold medallists in individual events at the 2016 Games in India. Nepal could muster only three gold medals in India—the country’s worse performance at the regional event. Judoka Phupu Lhamu Khatri and The Under-23 men’s football team won the other two golds.
Santoshi Shrestha - Athletics
Santoshi Shrestha’s dramatic win in the 10,000-metre race at the South Asian Games was quite literally a photo finish.
Shrestha became the first-ever Nepali athlete to win a middle distance gold, edging India’s Kavita Yadav by one-hundredth of a second. She clocked 35 minutes 7.94 seconds to Yadav’s 35 minutes 7.95 seconds. Nilanthi Lanka of Sri Lanka came in at a distant third at 35 minutes 59.02 seconds. “I wanted to prove that even non-departmental [Nepal Army, Nepal Police and Armed Police Force] players can excel in sports,” Shrestha told the Post. Besides legendary marathoner Baikuntha Manandhar, who won three consecutive golds and retains the South Asian record he set in the 1987 edition of the Games, Shrestha is the only non-departmental Nepali athlete to win gold in a middle-distance race.
Sanju Chaudhary - Weightlifting
Nepal’s Sanju Chaudhary set a new national record by clinching the country’s first gold medal in women’s weightlifting at the 13th South Asian Games. Chaudhary lifted a total of 171kg—74kg in snatch and 97kg in clean and jerk—for the top podium in the women’s 59kg division. In the process, she also set a new national record and became the first Nepali woman and second Nepali player ever to bag a weightlifting gold in the Games. At 17, Chaudhary shattered women’s 53kg national record with a lift of 60kg in snatch and 80kg in clean and jerk for a combined 140kg during the Asian Junior Weightlifting Championships held at Jawalakhel in 2017. She broke the previous record of Devi Chaudhary who lifted 59kg in snatch and 79kg in clean and jerk at the seventh National Games.
Rajesh Magar - Cycling
Nepal’s Rajesh Magar finished top in the men’s 1km downhill race at the Games, proving his credentials as one of the Asia’s fastest mountain bikers.
In the race held at the Shahid Park Trail in Gokarna, the four-time national champion and 2018 National Geographic Adventurer of the Year clocked 1 minute 49.33 seconds to win the gold medal. This is Nepal’s first gold in the discipline since it was introduced at the 2006 Games in Colombo, Sri Lanka. Nirvan Shrestha (1:50.080) and Prachit Thapa Magar (1:51.661) made a clean sweep of the podium for Nepal. “Our predecessors were better than us, but they didn’t have the opportunity to compete,” said 23-year-old Rajesh, who is widely known as RJ Ripper on the world cycling circuit.
Minu Gurung- Boxing
Pugilist Minu Gurung earned Nepal’s maiden gold medal in women’s boxing at the South Asian Games by getting the better of her Indian opponent Siksha in the 54kg category. The 29-year-old, who had to contend with a bronze at the 12th edition of the Games in India, was aiming for a gold in front of the home crowd. “I wanted to do the nation proud by winning the gold, and the contribution of the coaches and my family members has been significant in helping me achieve this dream,” said Gurung. Before starting her boxing career at Nepal Army Club, Gurung used to play karate.