1987: Manandhar breaks South Asian Games marathon record in the 1987 South Asian Games
By NLRC Staff, January 2016Contents
Marking Nepal's one of the greatest achievements in athletics, Baikuntha Manandhar set a new record in marathon in the 1987 South Asian Games. As of this writing (2016), Manandhar's South Asian Games record of 2:15:03 still remains unbeaten. The win in the 1987 Games was also his third consecutive win in the South Asian Games.
In the history of Nepali sports, Manandhar's accomplishments have symbolized a story of hard work, dedication to sports and a story representing one of rare distinctions Nepali sports has achieved with the limited resources available in sports. The story of how he persevered during his starting days despite hardship and discouragement (the discouragement came mainly from his well-wishers, who thought being in sports full time in Nepal was not financially sustainable) illustrates his resolve to continue in sports and contribute to Nepali sports.
One day, teenager Manandhar got in a truck [vehicle used for transporting freight], left Kathmandu and arrived in Birgunj, a city near the border with India, where a national meet was being organized, and spent nights on a hotel lobby floor. At the event, he begged the organizers to let him participate as, unlike for the security personnel, it was not easy for the civilians to participate in such tournaments. When he subsequently won the gold medal in that tournament, the first thing he did from the 10 rupees (about 10 US cents) prize money was to go to a neighboring Indian city, Raxaul, and buy himself his first pair of shorts and shirt that he could wear in future tournaments. He had won a national championship when he could not manage to have a pair of shorts and shirt for running. For that championship, he had used his homemade outfit, which included a pair of his pants cut to the knee to make it look like shorts.
This is just an example of many such stories and they continued even during his professional years when he was representing Nepal in international events. A person with an immense love for his country, he recollected incidents when such lack of basic needs used to come up during international events, "When we were playing international events outside of Nepal, they [participants from other nations] used to ask us why we did not have proper clothes and proper shoes for running. We did not want to portray a bad image of the country to the world; our coaches had taught us about self-respect. So, we used to dodge such questions and tell them that such items were not found in our country."
My win is Nepal's win
In spite of having gone through such times, humble Manandhar is very thankful for what he has received from the country and he treasures the love he has received from the people. When he traveled to different parts of the country and saw many impoverished people there, he thought he was a lucky person living in Kathmandu. Their impoverishment had also made lasting impressions on him, which he had brought up during his meeting with King Birendra. Attributing King Birendra's encouragement as one of the factors for his success, Manandhar in an interview said, "I had made a resolution that I'd retire only after setting a new record for Nepal." He then recollected the moment he achieved his goal, "I won there. When I won, I remembered Nepal. Many people had come to Calcutta (the venue of the 1987 Games) to support me, and once I won, they all came jumping to me. I felt I belonged to every Nepali. I felt it was everyone's win; from the coaches and administrators to the people, it was every Nepali's win." He continued, "Every Nepali has contributed to that timing of two hours, fifteen minutes and three seconds." Manandhar expressed his love for the nation by saying, "I am proud of my record [time in marathon], but I have a wish that this record be broken by our own Nepali athlete."
A role model
Manandhar has inspired many athletes and young talents. Veteran taekwondo player, Deepak Bista, who won gold medals in four consecutive South Asian Games, credited Manandhar by saying, "It was also because of Baikuntha Manandhar that we got motivated to sports and got into sports." Expanding on the significance of Manandhar's record, Bista said, "There has been no one even in a country like India, with over a billion population, that has been able to break his record. The fact that, in spite of today's technology and advanced training, his record is still unbeaten for 26 years," he continued, "is a proof that he is a living god [legend] for Nepal.
And new generations [of athletes] will come because of him [and the impact he has had on the Nepali community]."
Bista said that considering Manandhar's immense contribution, Nepal had not been able to provide the recognition that he deserved. When he said of Manandhar, who relies on public transportation, "We should at least provide him a vehicle and a driver," he echoed sentiments of many who feel such deserving figures have not been compensated adequately unlike some people, mainly politicians who held public office, who have received such facilities.
Beyond the record
Manandhar, who generally likes to talk more about the positive sides of sports in Nepal, also thought that there were rooms for improvement, especially the need to establish a mechanism to identify young talents from different parts of the country and provide them long-term training, which he thought was necessary if Nepal were to aim for medals in athletics in the global stage. Mentioning about the substandard conditions Nepali athletes had to go through, he said, "You know you have to take a shower after you run. Today there is not even a good shower facility, there is simply a tap that you have to work with; nor a good toilet, not to mention a proper gym." He continued, "How can we expect the players to do well in the global stage if we cannot provide even these basic things? What would players from other nations think if we were to hold an international event here?"
Despite pointing out such hardships, Manandhar maintains a positive outlook and continues to believe that things will improve. When asked about how he felt when he saw athletes in other countries well compensated and that not being the case in Nepal, he answered, "That [feeling of being well compensated or not] is a perspective different people have. But I have not felt it that much because this is a country of scarcity and poverty. This actually provides me motivation [to do something for the country]. Nepal is ours and I [and my success] belong to every Nepali. Nepali people have given me a lot of recognition and respect." Implying that he did not feel he had not received enough, he continued, "As I said earlier, I have seen people in other parts of the country who do not have enough to eat."
Manandhar's success has also become a source of inspiration to the Nepali community that has taken his achievement as a matter of great pride and his story continues to define one of the greatest achievements in athletics Nepali sports has seen. We hope his success will encourage and facilitate the establishment, as he envisioned, of a mechanism to identify and nurture young talents to take the sport to the next level.
Congratulations Mr. Manandhar on your achievement and thank you for being a role model to many. Your success story will inspire many others in the community to craft their own success stories.
References TOUGH talk with Dil Bhusan Pathak. "Legendary marathoner Baikuntha Manandhar & Taekwondo player Deepak Bista." Online video clip. YouTube. 16 Dec. 2013. Web. 2 Jan. 2016.
 ECS MediaTV. "Interview with Baikuntha Manandhar." Online video clip. YouTube. 23 Aug. 2012. Web. 2 Jan. 2016.
 TYAchannel. "Mr. Baikuntha Manandhar, TYA 52." Online video clip. YouTube. 12 Dec. 2011. Web. 2 Jan. 2016.
About Success Stories
The Success Stories series features achievements by individuals or groups from or with ties to Nepal. In addition to highlighting the contributions to the society, the Success Stories series hopes to promote the inspiration these achievements provide among the community.