Photo: Bhutan Paralympic Committee

Paralympic Games debut

Bhutan made its first ever debut at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games this year.

Bhutan’s first female para-athlete, Chimi Dema, from Mongar created history by securing a Minimum Qualification Score (MQS) during the 2019 Dubai World Para Athletics Championships. She secured MQS of 4.51m, exceeding the requirement of 4m in shotput for women, and thus securing her place in the Paralympic Games.

She was also the national flag bearer at the opening parade of the Paralympic Games, which was a proud moment for Bhutan.

The two other Bhutanese para-athletes; Gyeltshen aged 28 from Trashiyangtse and Pema Rigsel, 34, from Thimphu also competed in the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.

Chimi Dema and Gyeltshen competed in the women’s and men’s F40 Shotput events at the Olympic Stadium in Tokyo respectively. Their coach Penjore Gyeltshen accompanied them to Japan. Pema Rigsel participated in the men’s Individual Recurve Archery qualification round at the Yumenoshima Park Archery Field.

There were 4,537 para-athletes from 163 nations that took part in the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics Games. Japan hosted the Games for the second time; the first time was in 1964. The Bhutan Paralympic team received messages of support from the Prime Minister Dasho (Dr) Lotay Tshering and the Health Minister Dasho Dechen Wangmo. The team also received messages of support from students with disabilities from Jigme Sherubling Central School, Tsangkha Central School, Muenselling Institute of Khaling, among others.

The Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games could not be held in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It was deferred to 24 August 2021.

The first event for the Bhutan’s para-athletes was held on 27 August when Pema Rigsel competed in the Men’s Individual Recurve Archery qualification round at the Yumenoshima Park Archery Field. He shot 72 arrows and scored 523 points out of 720 points, qualifying him for the next round. He was ranked 30th out of 31 participants. On September 3 he faced off against the Russian Paralympic archer Smirnov Kirill in the elimination round. From four sets in total, Pema Rigsel won one set, however, he lost three sets with the score of Bhutan : 2 and RPC : 6.

Chimi Dema competed in her shotput event on 29 August, and Gyeltshen took part in his shotput event on 4 September. Chimi Dema broke her personal best record of 4.51 meters, and set a new record of 5.04m in the F40 Shotput category. Out of the nine participants, she stood the last.

On September 4, para shot putter Gyeltshen also broke his own record by throwing at a distance of 6.31m compared to his previous personal best of 6.29m in the men’s F40 category, but failed to qualify for the next round.

In their first ever Paralympic Games, the three Bhutanese Paralympians broke their own records and outdid their personal bests. Team China bagged 207 medals followed by UK with 124 medals and US with 104 medals. The closing ceremony took place on 5 September and the Bhutan’s para-athletes returned home on 13 September.

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