With the elimination of athlete Saraswati Chaudhary, who competed in the women’s 100 metres (athletics), from the preliminary round, the journey of Nepal in the ongoing Tokyo Olympics 2020 has come to an end, in about two weeks and a few days.
In this 32nd Summer Olympics, five athletes from four disciplines had participated on behalf of Nepal. Of them, three players improved the national records while the performance of the other two was average. All the players got eliminated from the first rounds in their respective categories.
Now, let’s get an overview of Nepal’s journey to the Tokyo Olympics 2020. Here, we sum up what Nepal did nice and not so nice in the Tokyo Olympics 2020–to remember for the future and learn from.
1. The highest number of women
This time, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) had decided to allow one female and one male athlete to carry the flag of a country during the march-past at the opening ceremony. Swimmers Gaurika Singh and Alex Shah from Nepal carried the national flag.
Initially, the Nepal Olympic Committee (NOC) had stated that only Gaurika Singh would carry the national flag. But after the IOC decision, the only male participant, Alex also got that opportunity.
About 50 per cent of the participants at the Tokyo Olympics 2020 were women. From Nepal, four of the five participants were women.
From the 1988 Seoul Olympics, Nepali women athletes started participating in Olympics. Since 1992, there have been more female athletes than male athletes going to the Olympics. But, four is the highest number of Nepali women participating in a single edition of the event so far.
2. Improved performance of athletes
Shooting athlete Kalpana Pariyar, who got the opportunity to play at the Olympics with a wild card, improved her own national record. She set a new record of 616.8 in the women’s 10m air rifle. Earlier, she had scored 614.5 at the 13th SAG. She finished 46th out of 50 shooters competing at the event.
Likewise, swimmers Alex Shah and Gaurika Singh also improved their own records and personal times at the Tokyo Olympics. Competing in the men’s 100m freestyle, Shah improved his own record in the long course to a time of 53.41 seconds, and in the women’s 100m freestyle, Singh set a new record with a time of 1 minute 11 milliseconds. Shah finished 59th out of 71 players competing at the event.
Shah and Singh, both 18, had previously set the records of 56.28 seconds and 1 minute 62 milliseconds respectively at the 18th FINA World Championships in Guangzhou, South Korea.
This time, Shah also became the second athlete to be first in his heat. Earlier, Singh had become the first in her heat at the 2016 Rio Olympics.
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1. Participation for the sake of participation
Although Kalpana Pariyar of shooting, and Gaurika Singh and Alexandra Shah of swimming improved their own national records, Nepal’s performance at the Olympics was limited to participation.
Winning a medal is a far-fetched dream for Nepal as it is still struggling to cross the first stage in the Olympics. Above this, it is a huge challenge for Nepali athletes to be selected and go to the Olympics. Nepal has been playing the Olympics with the help of universal reservation quotas and wild cards except for two players.
Those two exceptional players were taekwondo players Sangina Baidya and Deepak Bista who were selected for the Olympics in 2004 and 2008 respectively.
2. Some poor performances
Initially, marathon runner Gopichandra Parki was finalised to compete in the women’s 100 metres in the Olympics. However, in the end, her name was removed and Saraswati Chaudhary got that chance.
But, her performance in Tokyo was poor. Chaudhary could not improve her own records. In the second heat, she finished the distance in 12.91 seconds and was in the eighth position out of nine players. Earlier, her time of 12.55 seconds at the 13th SAG was the best.
Likewise, judo player Soniya Bhatta competed in the women’s 48 kg judo with a wild card. But, she lost in the first round to Irina Dolgava of Russia. In Budokayo Nippon, she stood with the opposition for only one minute and 16 seconds
3. More officials than athletes and coaches
Like before, this time too, a jumbo team represented Nepal that included several officials more than double the number of athletes and the coaches. It was much criticised.
Although the list of participants (officials) for the Olympics was cut due to the Covid-19 pandemic, there was a team of 17 officials besides five players and four coaches. However, three officials did not go.
Besides athletes, Tulasa Thapa, the wife of UML vice-chairperson Bamdev Gautam earned so much limelight. She is also the president of the Nepal Kabaddi Association, the secretary of the Nepal Olympic Committee, and a member of the Parliament. Though there was no participation of kabaddi players from Nepal, she went to Tokyo as a judo manager. It was rumoured that she had gone to visit Tokyo.