Shillong (Meghalaya), Nov 1: Meghalaya has big hopes of winning several medals at the karate and table tennis events at the upcoming 2nd North East Olympic Games 2022, which are scheduled to formally open on Nov 10 .
Karate is one of the most recognisable and popular forms of martial arts in the world and Meghalaya has had numerous success stories, both nationally and abroad, over the years.
Under the watchful eye of sensei Donboklang Lyngdoh, Meghalaya’s team of karatekas have been training together for the past two months, with the many school and college students balancing their education with practice.
Donboklang, who is the competition manager for karate at the Games, informed that participants will be aged 17 and above, with the purpose of including teenagers being to prepare and grow North East karate for the future.
The Meghalaya squad comprises 28 karatekas, who will take part in both kata (form and movement) and kumite (bouts). Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim and Mizoram are expected to give the hosts the strongest competition, with many of their karatekas having represented India.
One of the more senior members of the squad is Ester Mary Lyngdoh, who has been involved in karate since 2000, when she was just 12.
“Preparations have been going well and we hope to win several gold medals,” she said today. “The sport has been growing rapidly in Meghalaya, especially Shillong, with new clubs all over the city.”
Although Meghalaya has witnessed plenty of success over the years in karate, in the past successful karatekas (and those from other sports as well) would receive less than Rs 10,000 even for a gold medal at a prestigious competition. Under the current Meghalaya government, these financial incentives have now been increased many times, with medallists potentially earning tens of thousands up to lakhs of rupees based on their level of success. This is one of several ways that Meghalaya is improving its sporting capital, with the others including a more scientific way of testing young athletes for potential future success and through the rapid development of infrastructure.
The financial incentive is something much appreciated by Ester, who claimed a gold and silver for Meghalaya at the Kanninjuku National Shoto Cup Karate Championship in 2018 and was thus a recipient of one of the enhanced cash awards. She said, “This is the first time that we received large awards and we want to do as well at the North East Olympic Games and get the same incentive.”
Over in table tennis, there is one paddler who will be aiming to defend her women’s singles title from the first NEOG in Manipur in 2018, Tanushree Dasgupta.
Tanushree was today travelling back to Shillong after playing for her college team at a tournament in Chandigarh, but that event should have given her plenty of match practice ahead of the Games, where it is likely her toughest competition will be against players from Assam and Mizoram. Meghalaya’s men’s No. 1, Suranjit Dey, meanwhile, has been training hard in Kolkata for this event.
The other players who have been called for a camp are a varied bunch, with some from Shillong but others also from Pariong, Jowai and Nongstoin. They have all certainly been training very hard, with six hours a day devoted to the game.
“We have a chance for several medals,” coach Banshan Diengdoh said. “These players are still young and they will be the future of Meghalaya table tennis. On the other hand, Tanushree is now very mature and she will give it her best to keep her title.”