Fencing in Nepal: Too many problems prevent the sport from its growth

Fencing is another overlooked sport in Nepal. Photo: Chandra Bahadur Ale

The atmosphere around the covered hall beside the Dasharath Stadium is different. The hall is usually full of people who go there to witness sports like basketball, volleyball and badminton. But this past week, it is been anything but full.

Despite that, there is energy in the hall as Nepal’s best fencers go head to head in the Bir Ganesh Man Singh Memorial National Fencing Championship, one of the key events of fencing in Nepal.

Even though fencing entered the Olympic Games at the end of the 19th century, its presence in Nepal is very sombre. Fencing in Nepal does have an association and a few players, but a lack of regular tournaments has halted its progress in the country.

Slow growth

Two fencers go head to head at the Bir Ganesh Man Singh Memorial National Fencing Championship. Photo: Chandra Bahadur Ale

Fencing originated in Greece and has been part of the summer Olympics since 1896. But, only five national-level tournaments have taken place in fencing in Nepal to date. This is mostly due to the Nepal Fencing Association that was formed just in 2009.

Following the formation of the association, the sport was included in the National Games for the first time in 2012. Things were looking great for the players following this as they got to take part in the Asian Games in Korea and Indonesia respectively. The South Asian Games in 2019 had also included fencing for the first time.

Nepali teams have also been going to other international fencing tournaments like the world championship, Asian championship and South Asian championship. Despite this, fencing in Nepal is not considered a mainstream sport.

Hoping against hopes

Fencing Association has not been able to hold regular tournaments in the country. Photo: Chandra Bahadur Ale

But, the association has not lost its hope.

“We know things don’t look great, but we are one of the youngest fencing associations in the world and I think it will take time to establish fencing in Nepal,” says Sujan Lal Shrestha, the association’s general secretary.

He understands that the sport is in a delicate stage as previous players have left the country and Shrestha fears more will follow suit.

“Even though this falls under martial arts, this is not a cheap sport to be associated with,” says Shrestha. “We don’t have the financial backing needed to help us get to where we want to be.”

To even start fencing in Nepal, one will have to fork out up to Rs 300,000 for the equipment. And with not enough domestic competition, it has become hard to keep players interested in the sport, says Shrestha. 

One player that stayed is Omkar Singh. Singh says those that are in fencing in Nepal currently are in it because of their love for it. He says these people do not care about what they will get from the sport.

“All we want is to lay the foundation for a niche sport in the country,” says Singh, urging the government to set aside a budget and bring a plan to promote the sport.

Taking it to children

Photo: Chandra Bahadur Ale

Singh says it has already been too late to develop fencing in Nepal which could have been included in school curriculums. But, he understands that these things do not happen overnight. But, what makes him sad is how the Fencing Association has not been able to conduct tournaments.

“I started fencing when I was at Shivapuri School. I think everyone here in this competition is from the same school. If we take this to the schools, the sport will gain traction and we might see kids as young as 20 take part in international tournaments,” says Singh.

Shrestha says that the association has discussed developing a plan to promote fencing in schools, adding the Olympic Committee is on board with the committee.

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Timalsina is a sports journalist at Onlinekhabar.

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