Nary Ly Creates History for Cambodia at Rio
Female marathon runner Nary Ly created history on Sunday by becoming the first female Cambodian athlete to run the marathon at an Olympic Games.
While Ly was the last of the runners to cross the line, registering a time of three hours, 20 minutes and 20 seconds – 56 minutes behind the leaders – bagging herself 133rd place, she earned the distinction and plaudits of her fellow competitors and fans as being among the oldest athletes competing at the grueling event under Rio’s intense heat.
In a lengthy Facebook post yesterday morning, Ly gave thanks to the many supporters who cheered her on as she fulfilled a lifelong dream of competing on sport’s greatest stage.
“Dear friends, family and supporters of the Rio Olympics 2016, thank you so much for your touching messages and pics posted. I really enjoyed interacting with the crowd along the course. They were amazingly cheerful and screaming my name and my country ‘Cambodia’,” reads the post.
“Some people were running along the sidewalk with me. Arriving at the Sambadromo stadium, the crowd was standing up, screaming, cheering and applauded. The guards on motorbikes were honking like crazy. People on the side asked for high fives. It’s such emotion that I cannot find words to describe! When I saw runners started to drop out and my right ankle started to bother and hurt.”
“I decided to play safe and guarantee that the Cambodian female marathon runner will cross the finish line and shared my joy with the supporters along the road and with your friends and family who are following me on the TV. When I arrived at the finish line, so many journalists were interviewing me and I did not have a moment to put ice on my tendinitis and take care of my blisters. [It] was time to take the bus back to Olympic village. Now just back from the policlinic. Again many thanks for your wonderful support.”
In December 2015, Ly recorded a personal best of 2:59:12 at the Valencia Marathon, earning her a spot on Cambodia’s six-athlete contingent to Rio.
The eventual winner of Sunday’s race was Kenyan Jemima Jelagat Sumgong, who evaded a protester who had leapt onto the course to cross the finish line in 2:24:04.
Bahrain’s Eunice Jepkirui Kirwa was second, nabbing the silver medal with a time of 2:24:13, while Ethiopia’s Mare Dibaba snatched third and the bronze in 2:24:30.
Sumgong, aged 31 and a pre-tournament favorite, said the episode immediately reminded her of April’s London Marathon, where a similar incident occurred.
“It brings back memories of London, that’s where my thoughts went back to,” Sumgong said. “I was like scared, maybe I’m in trouble.”
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