Yet another Olympics coming up, but the headlines after the Games can already be predicted: "Nepal comes back empty-handed again." With the Sydney Olympics just a month and a half away, all that the Nepali Olympians can hope for is to better their national performances and get some international exposure.
The preparation has hardly been anything to write about; it is as if they are already defeated. The fact that with Sydney just some weeks away, the Nepali weight lifting team is anxiously-waiting for a wildcard entry says it all. And as for all those who have already in-athletes, swimmers and shooters- it is just the honour of taking part in the world\'s greatest show that is driving them on. Hardly world-beaters, our players have prepared only for a mere 45 days to beat the world\'s best. "How can we perform well at the highest level with this kind of short training," asks sprinter Devi Maya Paneru.
Nepal has a dismal record in the Olympics. Nepal has not even once qualified for the heats, let alone win a medal. Even though winning medals is a distant dream, the Nepal Olympic Committee is hoping something from Gyan Bahadur Bohara and Devi Maya Paneru. Gyan Bahadur is a versatile runner who has been running the 1500, 5000 and 10,000m distances. But this time, he is concentrating on 5000m only. Gyan Bahadur had a great run in the 8th South Asia Federation Games last year, winning silver in the 5000m in l4\'50", missing gold by just one second. "As an athlete, Gyan Bahadur has improved a lot. His timing is now around 1430"," says Biswa Thapa, chief athletics coach.
Devi Maya Paneru, undoubtedly the best female sprinter Nepal has ever produced, hopes to be the first Nepali woman to run the 100m under 12 sec. Though she failed to score in the 100m during the SAF Games, she bettered the national record with a timing of 12.17 sec. Delighted to be going to the Olympics, Paneru says, "It\'s like a dream come true,"
Chitra Bahadur Gurung and Runa Pradhan will represent Nepal\'s challenge in swimming. Both are competing in their pet event-the 50m freestyle. Gurung\'s best time is 27 sec, while Pradhan\'s 31 sec is also a national record. It will be great achievement for them if they qualify for the heats.
Shooter Bhagawati K.C. is lucky to be selected for the Sydney Olympics despite a poor performance in the SAF Games. Hers is a wild card entry because of the 377 points she scored in the air pistol event at the Bangkok Asian Games. Nepal may yet get to participate in one more discipline. Says NOC president, Rukma Shumsher Rana: "We\'re hopeful that we may get wild card entry in weight lifting. By early August, the picture will become clear." Initially, Nepal had applied for six disciplines of which two are mandatory-athletics and swimming. As for the rest, it had to go through the qualifying rounds. If Nepal gets to compete in weight lifting also, there will six athletes from Nepal at the Olympics.
According to NOC, a 17-member Nepali contingent will head out for Sydney 2000. The team will include Crown Prince Dipendra, who is also the Patron of the Nepal Olympic Committee.
Hoping for medals may be too much to expect of the Nepali players, but their enthusiasm at the moment proves that Sydney 2000 won\'t be just a free tour of Australia.
Asian Athletics Championship Some hope
Having missed out the last two meets due to internal wrangling within Nepal Amateur Athletics Federation (NAAF), Nepal is taking part in the Asian Athletics Championship to be held in Jakarta from 25 August. Four athletes will be compete sprint, middle distance and track events at the 13th Asian Athletics Championship.
The NAAF has already selected Ram Krishna Choudhary (100m), Sita Ram Choudhary (triple jump) and Beena Shrestha (100m), while there is a tough fight between Rajendra Bhandary, Puran Singh Dhami and Farsha Bahadur Rana Magar for the 1500m and 5000m events.
With Ram Krishna Choudhary and Sita Ram Choudhary establishing new national records in the Open Athletics Championship a fortnight ago, NAAF officials are hopeful of a decent Nepali performance at Jakarta. "We are definitely going to do better this time", says athletics coach Sushil Rana.
Ram Krishna bettered his own record of 10.71sec with a timing of 10.55sec while Sita Ram managed a 15.10m jump. Ram Krishna hopes to finish within 10.20sec in Jakarta. "Earlier we used to run on clay tracks and adjusting to synthetic tracks in international competitions used to be difficult. But as we have been running on a synthetic track for almost a year now, it will be easier," says he.
The Asian Athletics Championship holds a special place for Nepali athletes as it was in this meet that Nepal won its first-ever international medal. That was back in 1973 when Jit Bahadur K.C. won the bronze in the men\'s marathon. K.C. repeated the feat in 1975 when the Games were held in Seoul. That was the last time Nepal scored at this championship.
This Jakarta meet is also significant since Nepal plans to bid for the 2002 championship. Hence, a good performance by Nepali athletes would help its cause. According to NAAF president Rukma Shumsher Rana, the Asian Athletic Federation has already recognised Nepal as one of the bidders.
"We\'ve earlier tried to bid for either the Asian Athletics Championship or the Asian Marathon Championship. But now, we\'re only bidding for Athletics Championship as it is the bigger. We have already reached an understanding with Hong Kong, one of the other bidders, that they will support us for the athletics championship while we would reciprocate by backing their bid for marathon," says Rana. If Nepal gets to host the championship, it will be the first ever Asian-level tournament to be held in the country.
Sydney - The Olympic Games should not be a contest to see which nation can win the most medals but a celebration of personal achievement, an Australian church leader said Friday.
Father Peter Norden, one of 10,000 Australians participating in the torch relay, said the tallying medals only served to highlight the gap between the rich and the poor.
"The Olympics has become dominated by a small group of wealthy Western nations. We\'ve lost the plot by substituting the recognition of individual excellence and achievement with the suggestion that some nations are superior to others because they win more medals.\'
Father Norden said he offered himself as a torch-bearer to protest the "grotesque idea of national superiority".