Bhutan judo team: Small numbers, high spirits

Lone woman player Phub Dem confident of rubbing shoulders with the boys in her squad

By Keshav Pariat
  • Published 14.02.16
Phub Dem trains with a teammate in Shillong on Saturday. Picture by Vincent Wahlang

Shillong, Feb. 13: As the only woman member of the small Bhutan judo contingent at the South Asian Games, 16-year-old Phub Dem has to train with the bigger boys in the team, but that's no problem for the teenager.

"I am not stronger than them, but I can compete with them," Phub told The Telegraph confidently after a training session at Jawaharlal Nehru Indoor Sports Hall here today.

The venue will host the judo events from February 15-16.

Also in training at the same time as the Bhutan team was the one from Nepal, which was bigger in terms of numbers as well as the physical presence of the judokas.

This does not put off Phub, who responded in the affirmative when asked if she felt she could take them on.

Young Phub has been a judoka for the last four years and came back with a gold medal from an invitational judo tournament for cadets held in Singapore last November.

That tournament drew around 150 participants from Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines and Bhutan. It was a good opportunity for the youngsters to demonstrate their skills and learn from others and Bhutan coach Pema Dargay believes SAG 2016 will also provide them good experience.

"Maybe we will win a medal. We are hopeful of that. They will learn by taking part," Dargay, who was the first person in Bhutan to earn a black belt in judo, said.

"The India team is very strong, men and women. I saw them in Nepal in 2011 and they will be difficult opponents," he added.

Judo is a small sport in the Himalayan kingdom, with just one judo club in existence.

The team in Shillong comprises only four judokas, all of whom are teenagers.

The Bhutan Judo Association itself is only six years old and this is the first time it will take part in an international tournament approved by the national Olympic Committee.

Bhutan has picked up a few medals so far but have yet to notch up a gold medal at SAG 2016. The team are taking preparations seriously to bring glory for their country.