Asia’s newest NPCs Maldives, Bhutan poised to make history

Asia’s newest National Paralympic Committees (NPCs) Maldives and Bhutan are all set to make sporting history by making their debut at the Paralympic Games in Tokyo.

While Maldives will be represented by two athletes in Para Athletics, Bhutan will have three players participating in Para Athletics and Para Archery.

Maldives are hopeful that participation at these Paralympic Games would promote ‘equality’ in the country and ‘create opportunities’ for the Para athletes internationally.

Maldives, who were granted membership at the 2019 IPC General Assembly in Bonn, Germany, has seen gradual development of the Paralympic Movement in the country. The Maldives Paralympic Committee has seemingly been on fast-forward throughout 2020. They wasted no time in providing as many opportunities as possible for their athletes to get going. Even during the pandemic, the NPC has set up camps, educational and awareness programmes for its Para athletes.

At the Tokyo 2020 Games, the island nation will be represented by Mohamed Mazin (men’s 100m T11) and Fathimath Ibrahim (women’s 100m T11). Both the athletes were granted wildcards by the International Paralympic Committee (IPC).

‘These Games are special’

Maldives Chef de Mission Ahmed Mohamed highlighted the importance of these Games to their athletes and the National Paralympic Committee.

“These Games are very special to us. It will help promote equal opportunities for people with disability in the country and also help our Para athletes showcase their talent internationally.

“The training was set on regular basis but two lockdowns for a period of three months due to the COVID-19 pandemic forced the athletes to stay indoors. While the training was not up to our expectations, we hope our athletes will do their best and make a mark on their debut Paralympic Games,” said Mohamed.

Bhutan, having formed in 2017, will have Gyeltshen Gyeltshen and Chimi Dema in Para Athletics (men’s and women’s shot put F40 events) while Pema Rigsel will compete in men’s individual recurve open.

Gyeltshen and Dema, who made their international debut appearances at the Beijing Grand Prix in 2019, sealed the place at Tokyo 2020 through their performance at the Dubai 2019 World Para Athletics Championships, where – a year after they had started training – they both achieved a 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,” said Namgyal Wangchuk, NPC Bhutan Chef de Mission for the Tokyo Paralympics.

“We are very happy that they have been granted athlete allocation slots by the World Para Athletics, while Rigsel had been granted the bi-partite slot by World Archery.

“Our athletes have been training continuously, in preparation for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics and I am quite confident that they will perform well,” Wangchuk added.

Dema 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 (APC) in 2017.

‘Proud moment’

Chimi Dema was very proud of what she had achieved and now she wants to make her country proud with her achievements.

“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 her 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.”

These Para athletes are now keen to live their dreams and provide dreams to many in their nations.

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