Cambodia’s trio of bodybuilding medallists returned to a hero’s welcome at Phnom Penh International Airport yesterday afternoon and were met by National Olympic Committee of Cambodia secretary-general Vath Chamroeun as well as a large crowd of media and fans.
Visibly shocked by the crowd, the startled trio of Sambo Nan, Tek Bunvy and Num Soben were taken away in a motorcade through the streets of Phnom Penh and on to the secretariat of the NOCC.
Ending on Monday, the 9th WBPF World Bodybuilding and Physique Sports Championships & Congress was held in the Mongolian capital of Ulaanbaatar where more than 400 bodybuilders from 134 countries competed in championships organised by the Mongolian Bodybuilding & Fitness Federation.
Cambodia’s 2017 bodybuilding champions were Sambo Nan, who won a gold medal, while Tek Bunvy and Num Soben won silver and bronze respectively.
Ahmad Yasin Salik Qaderi of Afghanistan was awarded the overall winners medal.
Prime Minister Hun Sen had congratulated the trio of medallists through the favoured medium of his official Facebook page.
“This is our national pride when the sports sector is re-blossoming under the shade of peace,” said the prime minister, himself often described as somewhat of a different breed of strongman.
While the Cambodian Bodybuilding Federation had previously attracted little support from the NOCC, in recent years the committee has begun to realise the dedication and ability of Cambodia’s small but growing band of bodybuilders.
In 2015, the nine-strong squad officially represented the country for the first time.
As a result, the bodybuilders are expected to be eligible to receive cash prizes from the prime minister’s fund for medal-winning athletes.
The government has in recent years been generous in rewarding Cambodia’s sportsmen and women. It rewarded medal winners at the recent 29th SEA Games in Kuala Lumpur and the prime minister has often stressed the importance his government places on sporting endeavours.
In a private capacity, the prime minister has also doled out hefty cash prizes to Sorn Seavmey, a gold medallist in taekwondo at the 2014 Asian Games, gold medallist Sen Rady in the 2015 World Vovinam Championship and petanque stars Sok Chanmean and Ke Leng, medallists at the World Championships in 2016 and 2015 respectively.
Cambodia’s bodybuilders, who for years have languished with little recognition for their many achievements on behalf of the kingdom, will surely welcome government aid.
President of the Cambodian Bodybuilding & Fitness Federation Rasmey Sokmongkol also confirmed that the kingdom will organise the 15th South East Asian Championships in June 2018 in Siem Reap.