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Youngest swimmer Gaurika Singh honored

President Bidhya Devi Bhandari hugs swimmer Gaurika Singh, the youngest athlete of the Rio Olympic Games, at Sheetal Niwas in Kathmandu on Thursday, September 1, 2016. Photo: THT

Kathmandu, September 2, 2016: President Bidhya Devi Bhandari honoured the youngest athlete of the Rio Olympic Games, swimmer Gaurika Singh here at the President’s Office today.

Singh, who made headlines before and during the Games held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil from August 5-21, was the youngest among more than 11,500 participants from 206 nations and a refugee team who contested in the 31st edition of the world sporting extravaganza. She was 13 years and 255 days when she hit the waters at the Olympic Park’s Aquatic Centre on August 7. She won the three-player heats in the 100m backstroke but she failed to break the national record and also did not qualify for the second round.

President Bhandari said she was eagerly waiting to meet Singh and was happy to welcome the swimmer in her office. “I was following you in news and I also talked about you with my aides here when you were participating in the Olympic Games,” President Bhandari told Singh amidst a programme organised by Nepal Olympic Committee. “I am very happy to have you here and I would like to thank you for making the country proud in international arena with the feat in Rio,” Bhandari added.

Bhandari also instructed Singh to prepare hard for the upcoming games and the next Olympics to be held in Tokyo four years later. “Win and loss are parts of game. But we need to be well prepared before participating in the international tournaments as you cannot expect good results without adequate preparations. I urge you to start your preparation today to do better in the next Games,” added Bhandari.

Singh, who stole the 12th South Asian Games in India earlier this year with four individual medals, said she was overwhelmed to get the opportunity to meet the President. “I am happy, extremely happy to meet the President and being honoured from her was awesome,” said Singh, who migrated to London with her parents at the age of two.

Singh became the first Nepali swimmer to win individual section medals in the South
Asian Games in Guwahati in February. She has shattered 30 national records so far and currently holds 10 records, seven in individual and three in team events in her three-year career.

Singh was present at the President’s Office with her mother Garima Rana, younger brother Souren Bahadur Singh, grandfather Lok Bhakta Rana and grandmother Kabita Rana. Singh’s mother, Garima Rana thanked the NOC for providing them with the opportunity. “Meeting with the President of the country is an honour for us. This has motivated us in doing even better in the days to come. And we are committed to prepare Gaurika to qualify for the next Olympics in Tokyo,” added the 1994 SLC board topper.

NOC President Jeevan Ram Shrestha, President of Nepal Swimming Association Ashok Bajracharya, President of Nepal Sports Journalists Forum Mahesh Acharya, NOC Member Nilendra Raj Shrestha and NOC assistant Neeraj Shrestha were also present on the occasion. NOC President Shrestha briefed President Bhandari about Nepal’s participation in the Rio Olympics. “Seven athletes had participated in five sports disciplines and the overall performance of the players was satisfactory in Rio,” said Shrestha. “Swimmer Shirish Gurung and athlete Saraswati Bhattarai set new national records, while judoka Phupu Lhamu Khatri and taekwondo player Nisha Rawal put up strong performance. As the youngest athlete among 11,533 participants, Gaurika Singh was the youngest athlete in Rio. And that created buzz in international arena,” he added.

Shrestha also requested President Bhandari to instruct concerned authorities to invest in infrastructure so that the sports sector could produce future champions. “At this point, we do not have proper sports infrastructure where the players can train and compete.”