Bhutan, Maldives are winners without victories

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Bhutan, Maldives are winners without victories

While some countries celebrate earning consecutive medals at the Incheon Asian Games, three nations have won no medals. Bhutan sent 16 athletes in seven events, including boxing, archery and taekwondo, while the Maldives sent 142 competitors and East Timor 30.

At the Round of 16 light heavyweight boxing competition on Friday, Tashi Norbu lost to an Iranian boxer, 3-0, but he didn’t lose his smile. He greeted the crowd in the Buddhist way by putting his hands together, as applause filled the arena. Teammates patted his sweat-soaked back. “You did a good job,” they said in Bhutanese.

Located near the Himalayan Mountains, Bhutan is one-fifth the area of the Korean Peninsula with a population of 700,000. The country set gross national happiness (GNH) as its national policy, rather than gross national product (GNP), which led Bhutan to become known as one of the world’s happiest places. It is a country where all schools and public offices have a day off when it snows because snow is a symbol of luck.

Bhutanese get meaning from sports through enjoyment, not by winning. “It doesn’t necessarily mean that we don’t have a desire for medals,” said the general manager of the Bhutanese team. “But we do not think that we need to win a medal as long as the athletes enjoy their matches without getting hurt.”

With a chance to advance to the quarterfinals last Friday, the Maldives women’s volleyball team lost to India, three games to none, in 54 minutes. While India scored a total of 75 points, the Maldives scored 30.

“It is OK,” said the general manager of the Maldivian team with a big smile. “They did a great job.”

The Maldives, known as a beautiful island nation, has participated in the Asian Games since 1990. This year it sent the largest number of athletes ever, but has not come close to winning a medal. The women’s soccer team allowed 38 goals in three matches and scored none. The women’s handball team lost to Japan, 79-0, and to Uzbekistan, 57-7.

Though the Maldives is an island country where most of its population of 394,000 are swimmers, it was last in the men’s 400-meter freestyle preliminary. Mubal Azzam Ibrahim finished in 5:29.40, a minute and 46 seconds behind winner Sun Yang. But he didn’t give up.

“We don’t have a swimming pool, so we train in the sea,” said the general manager.

“If there had been a sea-swimming event, we would have won the gold medal,” he added with a smile.


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