Thursday, October 28, 2010

Karate seeks to end 12-year drought


THT Online Karatekas Binod Shakya and Roji Nagarkoti fight during a training session in Kathmandu on Wednesday.

KATHMANDU: The lead up to the 16th Asian Games was marred by selection controversies, yet karate coach Deepak Shrestha believes in ending the 12-year medal drought.

Eight karatekas were selected for the Asiad slated for November 12-27 in Guangzhou. The squad consists of two senior players in Kushal Shrestha and Binod Shakya, who have already represented Nepal in the 15th Asiad in Doha, along with two rookies in Kalpana Basnet, and Tara Gurung.

Of the other remaining four, Rabindra Dahal and Binod Maharjan had participated in the Senior AKF Championships. Ganga Adhikari was one of the eight Nepali gold medal winners in the 11th South Asian Games in Dhaka, while Roji Nagarkoti was the member of Nepali squad that claimed second position in the 10th SAG team kata.

Karate so far had claimed four bronze medals in Asiad. Sita Rai was the first to strike bronze during the 12th Asian Games in Hiroshima, Japan in 1994 before Rajat Kishor Shrestha, Sapana Malla and Samar Bahadur Gole won the other three in the 13th Asiad in Bangkok, Thailand in 1998. Ever since, Nepali karatekas have failed to taste success at this level.

Karate won seven medals — three gold (Ganga, Binod Shakya and Sunil Lama), two silver (Anu Adhikari and Binod Maharjan) apart from a bronze each in team and individual kata (Kushal) -- during the 11th SA Games. Sunil and Anu both failed to qualify for the Games.

In a controversial circumstances, Nepal Armed Police Force (APF) Club’s Sunil lost the 55kg final selection bout against Rabindra of Tribhuvan Army Club (TAC), while Roji defeated Anu in women’s 55kg selection match. Roji and Kushal will compete in both kumite and kata events.

Rabindra, the bronze medallist of the ninth and 10th SA Games, will be returning to international tournament since his pre-quarterfinals loss in the Senior AKF Championships in Malaysia in 2007. Despite his appearance in the international arena after three years, Rabindra was confident of a good showing. “I have been preparing well and hope to fare well in Guangzhou,” said Rabindra.

Deepak Shrestha, who has been entruted as the national team kata coach, is hoping to make the event a memorable ones by helping karatekas strike medals. “This is my first experience as national team coach, and I want to make the most out of it,” said the coach. Rajendra Kapali is looking after kata. A Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) volunteer coach Naomi Kondo is assisting the duo in Nepal's preparation.

Coaches Shrestha and Kapali both relying on Binod Maharjan, Binod Shakya and Ganga apart from kata event for medals. “The Binod duo and Ganga have huge international experiences and are also doing good in training. It has made us confident to earn medal,” said Shrestha.

Moreover, the mandatory provision of the same player to compete in both kumite and kata has also fueled further hopes in the Nepali camp.

Binod Maharjan had defeated 10th SA Games silver winner Ram Limbu, while Tara overcame eighth SA Games gold winner Meena Pathak for Guangzhou tickets. Kushal and Kalpana were spared the headache to final selection as they were directly picked up in yet another controversial circumstances when their opponents were found under-aged and were farcially barred from competing at the last moment after coming through various stages of selection procedures.

Binod Shakya was also confident of a better showing. “My experiences and the ability to maintain safe distance with opponents has made me confident of winning a medal.,” said the player. But he rued the lack of international training which would have greatly helped their preparations
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