Bhutan Para athletes out to make history on Paralympic debut
My life has changed a lot since I started Para athletics two years back17 Jul 2021
HISTORY IN THE MAKING: Chimi Dema in action at the Dubai 2019 World Athletic Championships.
ⒸJames Varghese for the IPC
Bhutan, the tiny Buddhist kingdom nestling in the Himalayas, would be keen to make a mark when they make their debut at the Paralympic Games in Tokyo next month.
Bhutan, one of the newest National Paralympic Committees (NPCs) having formed in 2017, is expected to field four athletes.
Gyeltshen Gyeltshen and Chimi Dema have qualified for men’s and women’s shot put F40 respectively while women’s 10m air rifle SH1 shooter Kinley Dem and Para archer Pema Rigsel, competing in men’s recurve event, are keeping their fingers crossed on making the cut.
Gyeltshen and Dema, who have had made their international debut at the Beijing Grand Prix in 2019, sealed the berth for the Tokyo 2020 through their performance at the Dubai 2019 World Para Athletics Championships.
“Our athletes have been training continuously, in preparation for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games. I am quite confident that they will perform well. Hopefully, we will also be granted bi-partite quota places by the IPC and ISF for Dema and Rigsel,” said Namgyal Wangchuk, NPC Bhutan Chef de Mission for the Tokyo 2020 Games.
Dem and Rigsel, were the first athletes from Bhutan to compete in an international Para event – the Indonesia 2018 Asian Para Games — after the establishment of NPC Bhutan and its affiliation to the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) and Asian Paralympic Committee in 2017.
Speaking about Gyeltshen and Dema qualification, Wangchuk said the athletes started their basic training in 2018 and they participated in the Beijing Grand Prix in 2019, in order to secure their respective Minimum Qualification Score (MQS).
“Both of them managed to secure the MQS at the World Para Athletics Championship in Dubai in November 2019 and since then, they have been preparing for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games. We are very happy that they have been granted athlete allocation slots by the World Para Athletics.”
IMPROVED PERFORMANCE, CONFIDENCE LEVEL
Wangchuk added: “We expect our athletes to perform to the best of their abilities, and expect a marked improvement in their performance level, compared to their performances in past international competitions and championships. We also expect a boost in their confidence level following the exposure that they have received.”
It was in fact a dream debut for both Dema and Gyeltshen who broke their personal best records at the Beijing Grand Prix two years back. While Gyeltshen got a distance of 6.04 metres, Dema attained 4.29 metres, enough to make the cut for Dubai 2019 Worlds.
“The past year was difficult owing to COVID-19. But I never gave up on my training and continued practicing at home. My goal is to make my country proud. I am targeting a medal at the Paralympics,” said Dema, who bettered the previous personal mark with a throw 4.51m at Dubai 2019.
“I feel proud about what I have achieved in the last three years. My parents are also proud of me. My life has changed a lot since I started Para athletics two years back. I am also getting all kinds of support from various organisation so I am now solely focusing on my sport.”
For Gyeltshen, who also bettered personal record with a throw of 6.29m at Dubai 2019, it was a dream come true to qualify for the Tokyo 2020 Games.
He admitted that the Games will be a tough challenge but he is ready to produce his best.
“It feels great to make it to Tokyo. Though there will a tough challenge with so many champions competing. But I will try to put up my best effort. It will be a great learning experience. I believe we should keep trying and we should think that ‘we can, I can’,” said the 28-year-old, who comes from a remote village in Trasiyangtse district in Bhutan.
Wangchuk added that Bhutan being a young NPC, they are working on developing talent amongst their athletes which will help the country prepare more Para athletes for the Paris 2024 Games.
“Right now, we have four athletes in three sports disciplines. But we have now started work on increasing the talent selection pool and perhaps for the next Games, we will be able to field more top athletes. We have taken all measures to ensure the health and safety of our athletes and officials, with the wholehearted support of our King and government,” he concluded.
The result notwithstanding, both Dema and Gyeltshen will make history becoming the first athletes from the Kingdom of Bhutan to take part in the Paralympics.