In memory of a lost son
Although not a popular sports in the country, Thimphu got its first skate park earlier this week.
The park at Babena, Jungshina was opened to public on November 20. Education minister Jai Bir Rai inaugurated the park.
The park was built with financial support from an American family who spent US$98,000 for the construction of the park. It was built in the memory of Johnny Strange, their son, who died at the age of 23 in a wing suit flying accident in Switzerland. Johnny Strange was the youngest to climb all the seven peaks before he attended the age of 17.
He first visited Bhutan in 2011 to climb the highest mountain in Bhutan, Gangkar Puensum 7,570 meters peak. At the inauguration ceremony, Johnny’s family and his best friend Tom Schaar, a professional skater took part. The Element and Vans companies from California provided free skateboard to the participants.
The park, approximately 650sqm constructed on a 6.5 acres of land provided by the Thimphu Thromde. Although the park was to complete in four months, due to the delay in supply of construction materials, it took almost seven months. “We even have plans to build other recreational like basketball court, football ground, volleyball ground, table tennis and cycling,” said Sonam Kinga Tshering, Secretary General of Bhutan Olympic Committee (BOC)
The skateboard is designed by Hardcore Skatepark Company based in California. It is designed in such a way that it portrays the Eight peaks “Seven peaks represent seven continent’s peak that Johnny climbed and the eighth peak signifies Gangkar Puensum which remained unclimbed,” Sonam Kinga Tshering said.
Apart from a few children playing on roadsides, skateboarding is not popular in Bhutan. However with the construction of the Skateboard Park, many children are showing interest in it. Pema Lethro, 24, one of the participants on the inaugural day said, “Although I am interested in skateboarding, I cannot go daily due to the distance. I am planning to visit during weekends.”
Another skateboard enthusiasts Phuntsho Wangdi said, “It was tough for me to get balance in the beginning, but I have improved.” “I feel blessed as it is the part of Olympic game and it is another platform where we youth can engaged our time fruitfully,” he said.
Bhutan Olympic Committee plans to add traditional paintings at the park to give a Bhutanese touch to the American sport.
By Pema Choden