Baikuntha Manandhar, aged 64, is still keeping up and goes to Dasarath Rangasala Stadium every morning for his regular routine of running. He has won a number of medals for our country in marathon running. We got a chance to know a little more about this legendary man and his achievements in life.
What did you dream of becoming when you were a child?
At first, my intention was not to get into athletics. My dream was to become a Lawyer, but things don’t really go as planned in many cases. The teachers made me take part in a school running program, and in the 1500 meter running race, I came first. After that, I was portrayed as a runner who would succeed a lot in the future. When coaches from India came to Nepal to train the athletes, they said if I trained for about two years, I could be a national player in running.
How did you break into marathon running?
My coach, the late Mr. Laxman Bikram Shah and Mr. Madhur Shumsher Rana, and also my friends, motivated me a lot to pursue this field.
When was the first time you ran for the nation and represented Nepal? Any special memories?
In 1973,I came in the fifth position in Philippines. They offered me to stay with them and provide everything I needed. But, my love for my country was greater than everything else, and I refused to stay back with them. It used to cost 10 paisa for a cup of tea in Nepal, and in the Philippines it cost about one dollar. It was difficult, but still, I treated my friends just so that my country would not fall under other the category of similarly poor countries.
What were the difficulties when you first got into this field?
When I took part in the Olympics, I had no proper shoes, no track suit, only a simple t-shirt with “Nepal” written on the back with a marker pen, and still we were so happy. We were happy that we were in the Olympics. I was happy with whatever I was provided with.
Can you share the experience of when you set the 2: 15: 03 record in marathon at the South Asian games in 1987?
To achieve that record, my friends were the ones to motivate me a lot. I remember I met King Birendra after accomplishing the record. He asked me what reward I wanted. I did not want any sort of reward particularly for me, because I had trekked to Dhankuta and seen the condition of life there. During that period, it was very hard to supply food products to the remote areas. I did not ask anything for myself.
What achievement do you feel the proudest about?
Well, I met the king a number of times. He personally called me to meet him. He also awarded me with the first “Yuva Puraskar”. The king came to my house, and asked about the facilities and requirements that I and my family needed. What else did I need? Even when the Rangasala incident happened in 1988, he asked me what to do next. He asked me to advise him. My proudest moment, I would say, would be setting the record of 2:15:03 in marathon running.
How do you see the future of athletics in Nepal?
Not only in athletics, but in every sport in Nepal, the future seems good. But the coaching is not up to the mark. Foreign coaches need to be brought into Nepal to teach and coach the players. Sufficient requirements of the players must be met. Training one month prior to the games and competition are not enough. Training facilities should be provided for years, so that the players can achieve better results in national and international games. More players from villages and other remote places must be motivated and trained. And the main thing is that, the abusing of funds for the players’ requirements in many villages needs to stop.