Two Nepalese swimmers on the ‘Road to Rio 2016’ have spent the past month living in a tent after the devastating Nepal earthquake left them too scared to enter their homes. But now, the swimmers, who only last week left the shaken country, have vowed to keep the Olympic dream alive and “bring pride” to their country and people.
Sofia Gadegaard Shah, 17, and Sirish Gurung, 16, of Kathmandu, are two of 25 swimmers on a year-long scholarship awarded by FINA – the Aquatics governing body – that allows them to train and live at Thanyapura in preparation for the Rio Olympics next year.
The duo were getting ready to leave for Phuket, to start the scholarship program, when the 7.8 magnitude earthquake rocked Nepal on April 25th. Suddenly their world was turned upside down and their Olympic dream was pushed aside, while they braved constant aftershocks.
Speaking about her experience after the Nepal earthquake, Sofia said: “It was a scary place to be and we were definitely frightened – we didn’t know if we would make it out alive or not. Anything could have happened.
“My family and I were living in a tent on the field after and we had to stay in the car at night because of the thunderstorms. Luckily we had a car but for all the people that didn’t have one it’s really risky out there. Everyone is still staying outside because nobody trusts the buildings after the second one came.
” You have to run [when an aftershock happens], you can’t just hide under a table or duck and cover like we had been previously taught. It’s crazy how you can’t trust the ground at all.”
Although the majority of both of Sofia’s and Sirish’s families and houses were safe, Sofia sadly lost her aunt in the earthquake.
“I unfortunately lost my aunt. It’s just unlucky about the timing and where she was. It has been a really tough time for my dad’s family,” Sofia added.
“It’s definitely a different ball game now in terms of what we are representing. We definitely want to represent our country and bring some pride and happiness to our people and swim for them,” said Sofia.
The pair were chosen by the Nepalese swimming federation to get the chance to spend a year at Thanyapura preparing for the Rio Olympics 2016. They have both received a wildcard entry into the 2015 FINA World Championships and the 2016 Rio Olympics.
Sofia, who has been coming to Thanyapura to train for the past two years, said it was an honour to be chosen to represent Nepal at Thanyapura and at the Olympics.
“I’m speaking for both of us when I say that it was this really great honour to be chosen. We don’t have the facilities in Nepal to train and we can’t train year round and the coaching is not the greatest, so it was really exciting for us to have this opportunity to train for a full year with great facilities and a great coach,” she added.
Sirish added: “Sofia used to tell me about Thanyapura so when I was told about this opportunity, I didn’t believe it at first. I’m really excited to train here.”
Their motivation to succeed here at Thanyapura is created from their opportunity to travel to Rio next year to swim in the Olympics.