Although the 13th edition of the South Asian Games (SAG) has come to a close, this is memorable in the sports history of Nepal not just because Nepal bagged the highest number of gold medals, but also because of the historic success achieved by Nepali teen swimmer Gaurika Singh.
For Nepal, South Asian Games have so many things. Thanks to a courageous backing and support of late King Birendra, leadership of late prince Dhirendra and hard work and commitment of late Sarad Chandra Shah, Nepal planted a seed of South Asian Games in 1986, taking challenges to host it.
Be it in a highly tense situation of cold war or in divided South Asia as now, Nepal has successfully hosted the SAG paving the way for Nepalese athletes and sports people to flourish in the region.
The seed has started to give fruit to Nepalese players. Teenage Singh bagged four gold medals challenging the domination of India and Sri Lanka in swimming. At a time when Nepal has been celebrating the 16-day of campaign to fight violence against women, her success also rejuvenates the Nepalese women.
After claiming the fourth gold medal for Nepal in the 13th South Asia Games, swimmer Singh became the first Nepali player to achieve the feat in the same Games.
Daughter of Dr. Paras Singh, a medical doctor and Garima Rana, a SLC topper, Gaurika Singh won the fourth gold medal in 100m freestyle swimming during the 13th South Asian Games in Satdobato setting a new record.
From her great grand-father late Kayur Sumsher, who contributed immensely in development of football to her maternal great-grand father Jaya Kumar Nath Shah, father of Nepalese cricket, young Singh has sports in her blood. This is what she has shown in SAG 2019 making all Nepalese proud for her performance.
Singh, as the first Nepali swimmer to win individual section medal, has left the sporting fraternity stunned when she finished first in 100m freestyle event with a timing of 58.13 seconds to win her fourth gold medal in the ongoing meet. Indian duo Shivangi Sarma (58.15 s) and Annie Jain (59.04 s) came second and third.
However, Gaurika then teamed up with Duana Lama, Tisa Shakya, and Anushiya Tandukar to bag the bronze medal in 400m medley relay to end the campaign with a total of nine medals — four gold, two silver, and three bronze.
After Deepak Bista, Gaurika became the first athlete to win four gold medals in the same South Asian Games. After winning the fourth gold she equaled the overall record of Deepak Bista, who had bagged four gold from as many SAF Games.
With her nine medals in the 13th edition of the regional sporting extravaganza, Gaurika took her individual tally to 13 medals.
Third Medal With Significance
Gaurika dedicated one gold medal to her grandfather Lok Bhakta Rana on his birthday. She dedicated one for the country, one for her charity and one for women.
How a great occasion and greater day for young swimmer Gaurika Singh who won her third gold on the birthday of her grandfather senior advocate Lok Bhakta Rana.
Rana celebrated his birthday with family and relatives, alongside his granddaughter Gaurika Singh, who then won the fourth gold medal. She is the first Nepali to secure four gold medals for Nepal in its history of South Asian Games. She gave it for her charity.
Her fourth gold is important for all Nepalese women as she is the first Nepali woman to achieve such a high success.
Not only in swimming, Nepalese athletes have done better in all fronts. From day one to last day, Nepal chased the gold. Nepal won the gold in football on the last day. On the second last day of the 13th South Asian Games, Nepal added four more gold medals in its tally taking its total gold medal haul to 49.
As young swimmer Gaurika Singh won her fourth individual gold medal, Minu Gurung claimed a historical gold medal in women’s boxing. Male pugilist Bhupendra Thapa ended Nepal’s 20-year long boxing gold medal drought by winning against India rival 5-0 in light welter category. In Judo, Nepal won second gold medal through Punam Shrestha.
Minu Gurung became the first Nepal female pugilist to bag a gold medal in the South Asian Games. Army woman Minu, who joined Tribhuwan Club seven years ago, claimed the historical gold medal after beating a pugilist from Asia's boxing powerhouse India, Shikshya, in the final.
After 32 years, Nepal secured a gold medal in Marathon in the 13th South Asian Games (SAG). Nepal’s Kiran Bogati won the gold medal of the South Asian Games marathon.
He completed the marathon 42.195 KM 2 hours 21 minutes and 17 seconds. India’s Raspal Singh won the silver medal completing the race in 2 hours 21 minutes and 57seconds. Baikuntha Manandhar has a record in South Asian Games Marathon. Nepalese athlete Santoshi Shrestha won gold in 10,000-meter women race.
This is for the first time in SAG history Nepalese women secured gold in long-distance running. Santoshi Shrestha has pocketed a gold for Nepal in Women’s 10000m race leaving behind Indian and Sri Lankan runners.
From men’s football to Karate, weight lifting, swimming, cycling, boxing, wrestling, volleyball, football and basket ball, Nepalese athletes have shown highest performance in front of their home crowd.
India Dominates 13th SAG
As it was predicted, India led the medal tally with a total of 312 medals which include 174 gold, 93 silver and 45 bronze. Indian athletes dominated almost all games in the tournament.
Led by strong performances of wushu players and swimmers, India breached the 308-medal mark by winning a whopping 50 medals on the competitions to consolidate its top position in the South Asian Games.
The bulk of India's medals came from swimming, wushu, weightlifting and athletics. India's gold rush was triggered by wushu with as many as seven yellow metals coming from it.
Swimming accounted for the most medals for India with 11, of which four were gold, six silver and one bronze. Indians bagged four gold medals on the first day of weightlifting competition.
Jhilli Dalabehera, who had fetched a silver in the Asian Weightlifting Championship earlier this year, lifted a total of 151 kg (66kg in snatch and 85kg in clean & jerk) to win the yellow metal in women's under 45 kg category.
Taekwondo players' impressive show also continued as they gave India six medals -- 3 gold, 2 silver and 1 bronze. India's participation in the taekwondo discipline in the SAG was allowed at the eleventh hour after intervention from the International Olympic Committee.
Swimmers and wrestlers continued their complete domination in their respective disciplines as India continued its commanding performance on yet another medal-laden day to leave rival countries far behind in the South Asian Games. Indian swimmers picked up as many as 7 gold, 2 silver and 2 bronze while the wrestlers clinched all the four yellow metals on offer to help India add 38 medals (22 gold, 10 silver, 6 bronze) on Day 7 of the regional games.
In fencing also, India picked up all the three gold on offer by finishing on top of the podium in the team events of men's epee, men's sabre and women's foil. In tennis, India made a clean sweep, winning three gold and an equal number of silver in mixed, men's and women's doubles. All three finals were played between the Indian players. The men's and women's single finals were also played among the Indian players.
In squash, India bagged one gold, two silver and one bronze. In women's individual event, India won a gold and a silver. In the final, Tanvi Khanna defeated Sunayana S Kuruvilla 3-1.
In shooting, India won two gold and one bronze. In men's 10m air pistol team event, Shravan Kumar, Ravinder Singh and Sumit Raman clinched a gold.
In boxing, seven Indian boxers entered the finals with reigning Commonwealth Games champion Vikas Krishan (men's 69kg) and 2014 CWG bronze medallist Pinki Rani (women's 51kg) leading the charge.
In kabaddi, Indian men and women's teams reached the final. The men's team took on Sri Lanka while the women clashed with hosts Nepal in the finals.
In Football, Indian women’s team entered into the final. Defending champions, India defeated host Nepal by 1-0 in its third and last round-robin stage game in Pokhara.
Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Bangladesh
South Asia’s three powerful countries Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Bangladesh have also shown their best performance. Sri Lanka secured second highest number of medals after India.
Although Sri Lanka secured just over 40 gold medals, it has shown a better performance challenging Nepal. Pakistan has maintained its stand as in the past. Bangladesh also have challenged host Nepal in all fronts.
Bhutan has made a big stride with 10 medals. However, it failed to secure the gold medal in football final. Maldives secured one gold with three total medals.
The thirteenth SAG remains one of the most successful tournaments for Nepal as Nepal secured 51 gold, 60 silver and 95 bronze. Nepal retained second position in achieving highest gold medal in tournament. Nepal had secured 31 gold in eighth SAG.
Sri Lanka secured third position with 40 gold, 83 silver and 128 bronze. Pakistan retained fourth position with 31 gold, 41 silver and 59 bronze and Bangladesh with 19 gold, 32 silver and 87 bronze. Maldives scored 1 gold and 3 bronze and Bhutan with 7 silver and 13 bronze.
Starting ten days earlier on December 1, the 13th South Asian Games (SAG) concluded on December 10 with a lavish closing ceremony. President Bidya Devi Bhandari declared open the game and deputy prime minister and defense minister Ishwor Pokharel was the chief guest of the closing ceremony.
The organizer also announced that the 14th SAG will be held in Pakistan. Although Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli could not attend the inaugural ceremony due to health problems, he addressed the players through video at the closing ceremony. In his video message, prime minister Oli has said that the SAG helped to strengthen unity and friendship among the south Asian countries. He also thanked all the persons involved in making South Asian Games a grand success.
Former King Gyanendra congratulated the winners of the medal, players and organizers for the successful 13th South Asian Games in Kathmandu.
Undermining The Heros Of SAG
Launched in the midst of cold war in 1986, South Asian Games had been passing through a period of turmoil. It was the courage of late King Birendra and late Dhirendra and hard work of late Sharad Chandra Shaha, Nepal was able to organize the first South Asian Games by overcoming all the challenges.
Although some of actions and ways of late Sharad Chandra Shaha were highly controversial and unpopular among common people, the game was possible due to his commitment and managerial skills. His team composed of Krishna Gopal Shrestha, Kamal Thapa and Subarna Chhetri, who made virtually impossible games possible.
However, the organizers of 13th South Asian Games did not spend any word for the founders of the games and their contributions to bring the game at the present site. Even while knowing that his opponents used the game to express the resentment against Panchayat system and monarchy, late King Birendra accepted the risk of institution to the greater gain for the country.
As usual, opponents used to express resentment against monarchy and Panchayat. Nepal had established itself as a country to hold first South Asian Games bringing all seven nations of South Asia in a front.
Thirteen South Asian Games
Thriving in uncertainty, South Asian Games have already passed several ups and downs in its 30 years of history. As the flag to host 14th South Asian Games was handed over to Pakistan this time, people have started to express whether 14th SAG will face the fate of SAARC.
Given the chilling relations between India and Pakistan at present, there are reasons for suspicion. Despite their differences in many sectors, India and Pakistan are competing in sports.
Although they have not played each other in their home ground in the last 10 years, there is a genuine concern whether India will send its athletes to Pakistan. This means the game may get stuck or the sports lovers of this region overcome the challenges.
“Will the 14th South Asian Games be actually held in Pakistan. SAG flag has been handed over and national anthem of Pakistan played out at Dasarath Rangashala. Let the Indian Government allow the next SAG to happen even if it has blocked the 18th SAARC Summit in Pakistan,” prominent civil society leader Kanak Mani Dixit wrote a tweet.
Kudos To Golden Girl Gaurika Singh
By Madan Bhattarai
We are very happy to congratulate Gaurika Singh, a 17-year old swimming queen, for her breathtaking and outstanding performance by bagging four coveted gold medals in the current South Asian Games. She has made all Nepalis and all women distinctly proud by her sterling achievements. The exemplary and historic feat accomplished by this charming girl is all the more important for us belonging to the hurly-burly of what is also called diplomacy. While the charismatic sports star making her a celebrity in London for her endeavors is already a goodwill ambassador of an institution, she is also the great-granddaughter of Field Marshal Kaiser Shumshere Rana, a scholar of his own making.
Rana was Minister, Chief Counselor and Director-General of Foreign Affairs of Nepal (equivalent to but much more powerful than the present incarnation of foreign minister) and Nepal's first formal ambassador to the United Kingdom and also the first ambassador to the United States. Rana is known more for his best public library of Nepal even though like many other institutional and monumental heritages confronting what can be called 'inclement' weather, it is in worst shape these days.
Gaurika's mother is Garima Rana, who once made headline for her academic achievement. Her grandparents are Lok Bhakta Rana, an advocate, and Kavita Rajyalaxmi Rana. Gaurika Singh and some other sports stars have also changed the landscape of Nepali sports as it used to be said that we were only limited to martial arts. The horizon has expanded and we should keep up the momentum and make all efforts to encourage sports by all means.
Kudos to Gaurika for her outstanding achievements. Her laurels and scores made by many of her Nepali friends in the ongoing games are a big morale-booster to a country where there is a feeling of desperation as if nothing can be done. Let us take their accomplishments in the best of the spirit and contribute to our over-all development. After all, it is us and only us who can make and change Nepal for the better.
(Madan and Ambika From Facebook wall)