Cambodia’s Olympians Take Flight
Cambodia’s 16-strong contingent of athletes, coaches and officials set sail on their 2016 Rio Olympic Games sojourn from Phnom Penh’s International Airport this afternoon with the hope and good wishes of Prime Minister Hun Sen, members of the Cambodian sporting scene and millions of their fellow citizens.
Taekwondo medal hopeful Sorn Seavmey will be joined by marathoners Kuniaki Takazaki and Nary Ly, female wrestler Chov Sotheara and swimming duo Pou Sovijja – competing in the men’s 100-meter freestyle – and Hemthon Vitiny in the women’s 50-meter freestyle.
Also making the 16,000-kilometer journey to Rio are four coaches, six officials and support staff who will be vital in ensuring the Kingdom’s athletes are able to contest the Games free of distractions and under the best possible conditions.
While global sporting powerhouses like China and the US were able to muster hundreds of athletes to send for sports’ premier spectacle (China has 416 Olympians and the US has 555), Cambodia’s collection of six is one of the smallest delegations participating at the Games.
Vath Chamroeun, secretary-general of the National Olympic Committee of Cambodia, thanked the National Lottery as well as the Ministry of Education, which on Tuesday allotted significant funds to aid the athletes in their Rio challenge. The prime minister has also been a vocal supporter of Cambodian athletes and has in the past rewarded medal-winning Cambodian athletes with generous cash prizes.
Hemthon Vitiny, speaking to the media earlier in the week, felt the experience of training in Thailand prepared her well for her second Olympic appearance.
“I am ready and very pleased with the technical training I received in Thailand,” said the 22-year-old. “I am committed to make the best of what I have. It will be difficult to win a medal, but I have the Thai experience to take with me.”
For decorated 32-year-old female wrester Chov Sotheara, the Olympics is a dream which she is pleased to say she had finally achieved.
“I’ll give my best efforts for the Olympics. I’ve won many national medals in my many years here as a wrestler,” said the 2009 and 2013 SEA Games gold medalist. “I’ve trained for months abroad as well and trained with Korean teachers in Cambodia.”
Chamroeun, a past Cambodian Olympian himself, said Sotheara would face the stiffest opposition from Asian wrestling heavyweights Japan, which has won a number of Olympic medals in the past. However Seavmey remains the best hope for a Cambodian podium place, he added.
Seavmey, the 1.83m Incheon Asian Games gold medalist said it was a challenge she was raring to tackle.
“I will give my best effort for those who have helped me reach this stage and have supported me. They have given me the courage and belief to compete,” said 20-year-old Seavmey. “The important thing is to progress past the last 16 and the quarterfinals. The semifinals are where I can expect to face the strong European nations as well as Mexico and the US.”
The 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil will get underway on August 5 and run until August 21, with Hemthon Vitiny starting the Kingdom’s campaign on August 9 in the swimming heats at Rio’s Olympic Aquatics Stadium.
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