'My mother nearly died': from Nepal quake horror to Asian Games

Faisal KAMAL
Nepal's fencer Sanjeep Lama rescued his mother from the country's devastating 2015 earthquake and is now competing at the Asian Games in Jakarta

Three years ago Sanjeep Lama was surviving on drainage water after rescuing his mother from beneath the rubble of their home which was flattened by Nepal's devastating earthquake.

This week he is proudly representing his country at the Asian Games in Jakarta, where he is part of the eight-member Nepalese fencing squad.

"I am a victim of that deadly earthquake. At that time I lost my home and my mother nearly died. I was out of my mind. Didn't know how to re-start with life," Lama told AFP.

"Our house crumbled and she was squeezed under a stone with her lower body full of blood and nearly paralysed."

Lama rushed from the capital Kathmandu back to his home village, where he and his brother took their mother to hospital.

"We stayed there for three months and those were real tough times.

"We survived by drinking drainage water and eating 'chura' (a chewable snack made out of flattened rice). I failed in my exams as there was no books, nothing.

"Even help was limited with rescuers unable to get to our remote village. Bodies were lying around stinking and there was devastation everywhere."

Since that dark time Lama, now 22, has rebuilt his life by pouring his energy into fencing.

Lama was spotted at a school karate class by national fencing coach Abhishek Karki, who encouraged him to give the sport a go due to his agility.

But even then, his path to the regional Olympics has not been easy.

Lama trains in a small room at a government school with just three swords at their disposal, and practises with bamboo sticks.

His country's fencing association supports the team with "pocket money and tiffin".

"It's still hard because my family members tell me to concentrate on my studies and get into a proper job," he says.

- 'No looking back' -

Lama in a chat with AFP relived the fateful day on April 25 when he received the horrific news of his mother being badly injured and his house razed.

"I had my class 12 exam and I got a call from somebody from our village. That day was a black day for me. Nepal was in shambles, there was devastation everywhere. Luckily she survived," said Lama.

After the horror of the earthquake, Lama returned to school and training.

He completed his exams and, after competing at a tournament in Korea and winning a national gold, there was "no looking back".

"On my own I train with bamboo sticks and tie some stone on my back to do some self training. But look where I am with this limited opportunity," he says with a smile.

Nepal's fencing team has competed in three World Championships and two Asian Games including the current edition.

He aims to represent his country at the Olympics some day.

But he remains unsure about his future in the sport.

Lama, who bowed out of his individual foil event after losing his preliminary match on Tuesday, is awaiting a good performance in the team event scheduled for later this week.

"Lost in the individual segment but now our aim is to do well in the team event," he said.

"Gold I don't know but Olympic participation is certainly a dream."