Athletes from across the region descended on Siem Reap to contest the 15th Southeast Asian Bodybuilding and Physique Sports Championships, marking the first time the Kingdom has hosted such a prestigious event in the Asian Bodybuilding calendar.
Almost 200 male and female participants will take to the stage in the hope of walking away with a medal from one of 20 categories.
Organisers hope to show Cambodia as a modern, dynamic country capable and welcoming of international events and tourists.
Thong Khon, Minister of Tourism and chairman of the National Olympic Committee of Cambodia, speaking at a recent Ultra Marathon event held in Siem Reap, explained that the Royal Government of Cambodia had sought to fashion Cambodia into a destination for sport tourism.
“The [sporting] tourism sector in Cambodia is an important part of our strategy, he said. “I hope events can enhance the attraction of tourists to visit Cambodia more than they already do.”
For the organisers of the 15th Southeast Asian Bodybuilding and Physique Sports Championships, the competition was a long time in the making.
“I wanted to show the world that Cambodia too can compete and gain medals, said Mr Rasmey Sokmongkol, President of the Cambodian Bodybuilding and Fitness Federation.
While the Cambodian Bodybuilding Federation had previously attracted little support from the National Olympic Committee of Cambodia, in recent years the committee has begun to realise the dedication and ability of the kingdom’s growing band of bodybuilders – although this has not yet come in the form of sponsorship and funding.
“It took me nine months to prepare with very little government support. It’s a non-Olympic sport so I am given the same reasons each time,” explained Mr. Sokmongkol.
“But now we have an angel patron who contributed $40,000 to make it possible. Without this and other private sponsors the event would not be possible, said Mr. Sokmongkol.
Budget costings revealed to Khmer Times show that the event will cost almost $150,000, although sponsorship from the likes of Grand Ibis, MFIT, and a personal contribution from World Bodybuilding & Physique Sports Federation Datuk Paul Chua has lessened the burden.
The hosts are hoping to clinch a number of categories and medals spurred on by strong international performance in recent years. Cambodian bodybuilders Sambo Nan, Tek Bunvy and Num Soben garnered silverware at last years’ 9th WBPF World Bodybuilding and Physique Sports Championships & Congress was held in the Mongolian capital of Ulaanbaatar. More than 400 bodybuilders from 134 countries competed in those championships.
“We have the chance to gain at least eight medals in the 20 categories, said Mr. Sokmongkol. Asked what he envisioned for the future of Cambodian Bodybuilding, he was aiming high.
“We aim to host the Asian [Championships] next year in Phnom Penh. Our ultimate goal is to have bodybuilding included at the 2023 SEA Games here in Cambodia.”