She distinctly remembers her first few days of judo practice. She was merely 10 years old and her training used to be extremely painful. The cramps she got all over her body made her dislike the sport. “I hated going for those early morning practices when I was younger. I would tell my dad that I was going for judo training and wander around in the fields instead,” says Phuphu Lhamu Khatri who became the first woman to win a gold medal for Nepal at South Asian Games in 2016. She also bagged the Female Player of the Year Award at NSJF Pulsar Sports Awards in the same year.
Her journey as a judoka began when Chandra Dangol who is now her guru came to her shop to buy some snacks. There was a judo training hall near her shop at Sorakhutte in Kathmandu so Dangol randomly asked her father to send Khatri for judo practices every morning. “Since then my father has encouraged me to take part in sports,” says Khatri.
Khatri always liked watching sports on television. However, she never thought that she could be good at it. “I’m very grateful to my father for constantly pushing me into sports. Very few girls in my country are as privileged as I am,” says Khatri.
Her father, a sports person himself, has been Khatri’s constant support, guide, mentor and a friend. Khatri says that her father always told her that girls should be fit, strong, and wise. He believed in her potential more than anyone else.
Khatri only stared enjoying judo after two years of continuous morning practices. “I was getting better at judo each day and I worked hard to excel in that art,” says Khatri. At the age of 12, judo became her first love and an integral part of her life. “I do not think I can ever part with this game. Judo has given me recognition, strength, and important life lessons which I would not have learnt otherwise,” adds Khatri.
She was also the flag bearer for Nepal at the 2016 Summer Olympics Parade of Nations. However, she considers her victory at the South Asian Games as the biggest achievement of her life. “Winning the gold was a very emotional moment for me. I’m glad that I could do this for my country and make Nepal proud,” says Khatri.
She is also appreciative of her judo club that took her to various other nations for judo trainings. According to her, the exposure gave her the confidence and strength to perform well. Yet, there are still small problems that come as great barriers to every Nepali woman in sports. “Our government has never made women centric policies in sports. Small things such as improper sanitation facilities can be a great hindrance for us,” says Khatri. According to her, most tournament halls have dirty toilets which make it extremely difficult for them to practice or compete, especially when they are menstruating.
Khatri also says that there are very few good changing rooms for women and it’s quite difficult for women to change comfortably after practices and tournaments. “Small things such as these are never taken into consideration. You will often find women hunting for corners to change after tournaments and practices. Such inconveniences even compel women to opt out of sports,” says Khatri.
Nevertheless, Khatri feels it is imperative to encourage women to take part in sports. “Nepali women have a lot of potential. We can be the best in the world not only in sports but in every other field. We just need to work hard, fight for what we really want, and nothing under the sun is unachievable,” she concludes.