This amazing Tamang family has not quite hit the limelight; they have been denied the glory that they so clearly deserve. Ratna Jit has dominated the national badminton championships for eight consecutive years and is the reigning champion of Nepal to this day. His eldest sister Sara Devi became a national badminton champion in 2060 B.S. and took part in the South Asian Games in Shillong, India representing Nepal, when she suffered a knee injury that side-lined her from active participation in the sport. But she has continued as coach of the badminton players of the Nepal Army which includes her brother Ratna Jit. The third sibling, their sister Nangsal Devi became a national champion at the 6th National Games held in Dhangadi in 2068 B.S.. The sport was so dominated by these siblings that Sara Devi would come first and Nangsal second, while Ratna Jit has won year after year without a break since 2068 B.S.. Ratna Jit and Nangsal became the first Nepali Badminton players to win gold at an international tournament when they won the mixed doubles title in the Yonex-Sunrise Pakistan International Series held in Islamabad back in 2016 C.E.. After the event they were awarded the Zest honors.
The secret of their success lies in the fact that their father Dil Bahadur Tamang was also a national badminton player and had represented Nepal in the South Asian Games. Hailing from Bhojpur, Dil Bahadur would travel from his hometown to take part in the sport wherever the tournament took him. With his vast experience as a shuttler, he trained his three children, Sara Devi the eldest, Nangsal the second child and Ratna Jit the youngest since they were kids and turned them into champions. No sport has ever been dominated by one family as these siblings have done. They should have been famous by now, but have remained almost anonymous, occasionally appearing in the news when they win a tournament.
Ratna Jit was born on 1st January 1993. The very shy sportsman did not approach us when we entered the vast Covered Hall of the Tribhuvan Army Club in Lagankhel where he and Sara Devi are stationed. Somebody directed us towards him and we approached him while he was busy coaching the junior players who have been placed under his tutelage. Speaking very cautiously at first, he slowly opened up as we chatted about his family and their exploits. He clearly has not had much media exposure. “We were all inspired by our father who was a national player. Now he’s 64 years old, but is still teaching youngsters in Bhojpur how to play badminton,” says Ratna Jit, talking fondly about his father. He has been playing badminton since the age of seven when his father started coaching him. The sport kept him so busy that he quit his studies and concentrated on the game. “One doesn’t earn enough just playing badminton, so I joined the army,’ he explains. The army has given him security and also the opportunity to train younger players who sign a contract and stay in the barracks like him. His first success in the national stage came when he won Gold at the Krishna Mohan Memorial Badminton Championship.
In the BWF International Challenge Series of Pakistan, Ratna Jit won silver in the men’s doubles event with his partner Dipesh Dhami. In 2017, he and his sister played the mixed doubles at the same tournament and brought home the silver medal. In July of 2017, he also won the singles title of the Annapurna International Corporate Badminton Tournament held at the APF Club. A total of 364 shuttlers had taken part in the tournament. In 2019, Ratna Jit won the Bronze medal in the singles category of the South Asian Games played in Pokhara.
Born on 5th February 1984, Sara Devi Tamang, the eldest of the siblings, is also in the Nepal Army which she joined in 2062 B.S., and is the current Nepal Army coach. She first came to Kathmandu in 2059 B.S. to take part in a tournament and in those early days, would come, play and return to Bhojpur where she was born. Her career as a national player started in 2056 B.S. when she played in Nepalgunj as a junior player (under 19). “I became a national champion in the senior level in 2060 B.S. Right now I am busy with my studies and coaching,” says Sara Devi. She won the Bronze medal at the 12th SAG Games. Recently married to a civilian, she goes home on Fridays as on the other days she is confined to the barracks. Looking back on her injury, she says, “It was in 2067 that I hurt my knee. I made the mistake of carrying on playing despite the injury with bandages on my knee. When I eventually went for surgery, it was late, and it didn’t heal properly. While other players with injury have recovered, my knees are still not healed well.”
She helps her siblings by giving them advice and pointing out their shortcomings as players. The siblings have been good for each other as they can give an honest opinion about each other’s game. Sara Devi also coaches Ratna Jit and he feels grateful that she can guide him and has great respect for his older sister. “Ratna Jit has gone to Japan to take part in an international tournament at the moment. A Japanese organization has been sponsoring three Nepali shuttlers: Navin Shrestha, Bikash Shrestha and Ratna Jit,” she informs. “By the way, Nangsal will also be coming to Kathmandu soon,” she adds.
Nangsal Devi Tamang was born on 28th December 1988 and started playing badminton at the tender age of nine and like her siblings was trained by her father. The first championship she won was the Annapurna Corporate Badminton Tournament. Her playing career began in 2058 B.S. at the Pokhara National Games. When the national games were held in Dhangadi in 2068 B.S. she won the Senior title. At the Pushpa Lal Memorial National Open Badminton Championships she won both the women’s singles and doubles events. Then at the BWF Nepal International Series 2019, she won the women’s doubles and won Bronze in the mixed doubles. She has won gold at the Krishna Mohan Memorial Badminton Tournament three times and held the national title three times. But she won so many tournaments that she didn’t keep track of how many gold medals she has won. “I’ve won about 12 golds,” she says smiling. Newpaper reports say it’s 17 gold. From 2016 to 2018, she won all lthe local tournaments; hence the large number of gold medals.
Nangsal still lives in Bhojpur and practices with her fahter, “I completed my Masters in MBS from Shankadev Campus and started working at the Citizens Bank in Bhojpur from July the same year,” she informs. She was offered the job after she won the Bronze medal playing in the women’s singles event during the 12th South Asian Games in Guwahati, India held in February 2016. She was the only Nepali to win a medal in the singles category in the games. She travels to Kathmandu whenever she has a tournament to play here or abroad and has been representing the country since 2068 B.S. ”The Krishna Mohan Memorial Badminton Tournament is organized by the APF Club and the Pushpalal Memorial Badminton Championship is organized by the Khelkud Mahasang,” she says. When asked about the state of sport in Nepal, she laments, “Most of the training we do, we do on our own. It’s only before an international tournament that we get coaching. There’s no incentive to play the game as you can’t make a living playing badminton.”
Amazingly, a Nepali sports writer instead of encouraging the Nepali shuttlers, wrote a disparaging report claiming that the Tamang siblings win only because there is no competition in the sport in Nepal. Proving him wrong, Ratna Jit and Nangsal went to Pakistan and brought home a gold medal each in the mixed doubles event in an international tournament. They became the first Nepali shuttlers to win gold in an international competition. The writer went on to compare Ratna Jit with Pashupati Paneru, a man who chose money over country and left for the greener pastures of the United States. Instead of representing his country Paneru was earning dollars in the US, while Ratna Jit is happily employed in the Nepal army and proudly represents his country whenever he is called up. But he remains unfazed and humble, winning eight national titles in a row. and gives credit to his two sisters, saying that he benefits from the suggestions and pointers he gets from them.
The siblings owe a great deal to their loving father Dil Bahadur whose dedication in training his children has brought them glory. In any sport, the champions are quite often those who got an early start and had support of some kind. We’ve seen lawn tennis players like the Williams sisters who started young and were coached by their doting father. Lionel Messi was spotted early and supported and nurtured by his club Barcelona. “We owe it all to our father, he is the man behind our success,” says Ratna Jit. The Tamang siblings have done their country proud and continue to represent Nepal in the gentle sport of badminton.
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