Dubai: The tiny nation of Bhutan is here to tell a totally different story while using sport as a medium.
A landlocked country in South Asia bordered by the Tibet Autonomous Region of China in the north, the Indian state of Sikkim and the Chumbi Valley of Tibet in the west, Bhutan with possibly the smallest contingent of three at the 2019 Dubai World Para Athletics Championships to announce its arrival on the international stage.
“We have to tell our story everywhere we go. We are the baby in this sport, and we need to let the world know that we are there,” Bhutan coach Penjor Gyeltshen told Gulf News.
“We are completely new to para sports, so just being here is like a dream for these athletes,” he added.
Penjor is in Dubai with two short stature 26-year-old athletes who are participating in the F40 shot put competition to be held on Sunday. Chimi Dema will participate in the women’s F40 shot put, while her teammate Gyeltshen Gyeltshen will be in the men’s shot put in the same category.
Starting serious training since August last year, both athletes had to make the Minimum Qualifying Standard (MQS) while making their international debut at the Beijing Grand Prix earlier this year. “Going to China in itself was a huge achievement for a country like Bhutan,” Gyeltshen said.
“To start with, we are very new in the Paralympic movement, and then we have so many hurdles to overcome. We don’t have the know-how, we don’t have the coaches, we don’t have the infrastructure. Everything is so brand new for all of us. So, just participating at such big competitions is a great start for us all,” he insisted.
Dubai, in fact, is a very important step for Bhutan in this building-up process. “I believe we are already an example of sorts for all other countries as we take the Paralympic movement forward. Beijing was our first-ever World Grand Prix, and Dubai is our first-ever World Championships. Maybe, we will have to wait for another 10 or 15 years when we can have these two athletes with medals around their necks,” Gyeltshen hoped.
“We would have never achieved any of this without the support of the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) and the Agitos Foundation. Imagine sub-zero conditions in Bhutan near the Himalayas, and here we are struggling to adjust with warm temperatures. We have come a long way indeed, and yet, we also know that our road is long way past the 2020 Tokyo Games,” he added.