Nepali karate athletes expect high of Hangzhou Asian Games

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Biplov Lal Shrestha and his teammates have been sweating on their preparations these days, as the Nepali karate athletes are aiming for medals at the 19th Asian Games to be held in Hangzhou in less than three weeks.

Nepal's National Sports Council has reportedly listed taekwondo, karate and boxing as their potential medal-winning sports at the Hangzhou Asian Games.

Shrestha himself is a gold medalist at the 2019 South Asian Games. "I'm going to Hangzhou with high spirit and compete fiercely and win a medal for my country," said Shrestha. "My priority is to secure a gold medal, if not, at least one medal."

Shrestha is aware that the Asian Games is at a higher level. "After completing technical training, we're doing fight-based training," he noted.

Nepal has never won a gold medal at previous Asian Games, but secured two silvers and 22 bronzes. At the 2018 Asian Games, Nepal got a silver in paragliding, while their other medals were secured in karate, taekwondo and boxing in other editions.

Erica Gurung, 19, is set to make her international debut at the Hangzhou Asian Games, which opens on September 23 and runs through October 8.

"I'm fully prepared to compete and I will do my best," Gurung said. "My goal is to secure a gold, if not, any medal possible."

Nepali athletes won gold medals in 10 out of 19 karate events at the 2019 South Asian Games on home turf.

"I feel we have chances to win medals in karate because we are competitive in South Asia," said Kushal Shrestha, coach of the Nepali karate team.

"Since the 2014 Asian Games, we have returned empty-handed in karate," he noted. "We want to break this trend in the upcoming Asian Games in Hangzhou."

One concern among Nepali karate athletes is whether a late start of training sessions for the Asian Games would affect their performance.

"Definitely we started late, but we're focusing on our training and I hope a late start will not have any major negative effect on our performance," said athlete Shrestha.

Nepal is also sending its karate athletes to Belgium for training and Indonesia for a championship in preparations for the Hangzhou Asian Games, according to Yubraj Lama, president of the Nepal Karate Federation.

Noting that the karate athletes have been training very hard, the president is hopeful that they would bag medals in Hangzhou.

"We're expecting them to perform very well this time," he said.

Besides high expectations, the players, coach and president are eager to observe and experience Hangzhou as well.

The two players have never been to China, while the coach and president have never visited Hangzhou during their past trips to China.

Lama has watched trailers and video clips about Hangzhou, and he has "some experience" with China hosting grand events.

"China has a tradition of arranging excellent events like the Olympics, the Asian Games," he said, also describing the Hangzhou Asian Games as the "only international festival" in which Nepali athletes can participate, perform and grow, and hope for medals.

"I think it will be amazing, and we'll have a good experience," the president added. "The Nepalese team will have a very, very good experience."

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