Pema Thinley, a Class-two student of Sakteng Lower Seconday School, is excited. A team from Bhutan Amateur Athletics Federation (BAAF) is in the gewog to conduct the kid’s athletics festival.
Pema Thinley and the students were informed about the programme during the morning assembly on May 8. Like many, Pema Thinley thought that it would be like a regular games period. The BAAF team entered the school ground with some fancy equipment and gears. It was love at first sight for Pema Thinley when he laid eyes on the rocket-like toy, a customised javelin for kids.
He could not wait to get his hands on the toy. However, it was too early for the festival to begin. The BAAF team began to train the teachers on the usage of the equipment for almost half the day. Pema Thinley and the rest of the students waited for the programme to begin, growing impatient.
Towards afternoon, Pema Thinley got a chance lay his hands on javelin. He picked up the toy and ran quickly towards one of the teachers and handed over the toy. He could finally sit in peace.
The much-awaited programme finally began. Pema Thinley joined some 180 students to be the first ones to play with the equipment. “I’m very happy today. I didn’t know that there were such games also,” said the 10-year-old. “I could play these games over and over again and not get tired.”
Until now Pema Thinley had known only five sports – marbles, football, archery, khuru and volleyball. He said that he wants to become a professional javelin thrower. A nudge from behind and he changed his thought swiftly: “I want to become a doctor.”
This was the first time that such a sports programme was held in the gewog. BAAF’s general secretary, Dorji Tenzin, said that the programme was brought to Sakteng mainly to hunt for potential middle-distance runners from the highland. “We are here to give children in remote places a chance to showcase their talents in athletics and to make a difference in their educational pathways with athletics as the main sporting event.”
The programme was also in line with the federation’s vision: Kid’s athletics for all kids by 2020. Dorji Tenzin said that it was also to kick start the federation’s Athletics at School project, which was initiated in 2013.
BAAF has distributed the kid’s athletics kits to all the 20 dzongkhags and have trained all the school coaches. “The pristine climate and altitude in places like Sakteng provide an ideal environment for potential athletes to grow,” said Dorji Tenzin. “Compared with the urban setting, the kids here have so much determination. If these kids are trained at the right age, they can achieve great successes in the future.”
Similar programme will be conducted in places like Merak and other highland communities in the future.
The festival came to an end with the awarding of medals and certificates to the participants. Goody bags were given to the underprivileged students of the school.
On their way home, students were seen imitating some of the moves from the event using the local facilities at their disposal.
Younten Tshedup | Sakteng