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Medallists receive plaudits and windfall

Ismail Vorajee / Khmer Times Share:
Gold medallists Jessa Khan and Ou Moeut Saly lead a parade yesterday in Phnom Penh after the 2018 Asian Games. KT / Yeun Punlue

Cambodia’s medallists from the Jakarta-Palembang Asian Games touched down in the Cambodian capital yesterday to a deluge of praise, plaudits, and prizes.

Arriving alongside the National Olympic Committee of Cambodia delegation, Jessa Khan, a Khmer-American from Southern California, and Ou Moeut Saly, from Thbong Khmum province, were whisked away by motorcade for a reception with Prime Minister Hun Sen, dignitaries, and other athletes. 16-year old Khan was a gold medallist in the 49 kg ju-jitsu, while 26-year old Saly won gold in the ski modified jet ski.

Saly was wowed by the support and was thankful to those who turned out to welcome the pair. “I am so excited and honoured to represent Cambodia, he told reporters. “I really wish to thank the Cambodian people for their support and encouragement.”

Khan said she was excited about seeing her many legions of fans and thankful for the welcome.

In his address at the Peace Palace, Prime Minister Hun Sen praised the achievements of the athletes adding their success was thanks to initiatives by sporting federations, the National Olympic Committee of Cambodia, and the Ministry of Youth, Education, and Sports.

“Their achievement In Jakarta is great pride for the kingdom of Cambodia, said the Prime Minster in his address. “Their dedication and hard work should be a lesson to all. Seeing Cambodia’s flag held aloft is a source of pride for I and all of Cambodia.”

“This is great pride for Cambodia, We waited 64 years to win gold in 2014 through Sorn Seavmey and now we have yet more medals. Regarding those who did not receive medals I tell them not to despair. Make further efforts, do not give up, and persevere,” he urged.

The Prime Minister also paid tribute to team members who were critical to the success of the medallists.

Arriving alongside the National Olympic Committee of Cambodia secretary general Vath Chamroeun, Jessa Khan (right) and Ou Moeut Saly display their medals. KT / Yeun Punlue

Cambodia’s final medal tally of three – two gold and a bronze – was their best performance in the Asiad in their 64-year participation. They finished in 24th sandwiched between Jordan and Saudi Arabia. A 71-member delegation was sent to the Asian Games this year.

A sub-decree announced in July, 2015, declared that the government would award cash prizes for silverware-winning athletes from a special fund to promote the nations sporting development dishing out 80 million riel $20,000 for a gold medal. Silver medallists can earn 40 million riel 10,000, while a bronze can net 24 million riel $6,000. In a private capacity, the Premier is expected confer $10,000, $5,000, and $3,000 respectively.

Showering both money into sporting development in Cambodia has been a feature of the Prime Ministers leadership. In 2017, he received an International Olympic Committee award in recognition of his efforts to encourage sport.

In December 2017, the government dished out more than $1.7 million in prizemoney to 211 medallists from the 29th 2017 Kuala Lumpur SEA Games, and other international sporting competitions.

A monument to the government’s commitment to the development of sport is the $200 million Morodok Techo Sports Complex on the northern outskirts of Phnom Penh.

The windfall is not over yet for the pair. NagaWorld, Cambodia’s are also set to reward the duo in a glittering ceremony at the NABA Theater at Naga 2 tomorrow.

They are reported to each receive a $10,000 windfall courtesy of the casino-giant. NagaWorld, long-time patrons of sport in the kingdom, will also donate $1,500 to the NOCC – or $500 for each medal won.

In 2011, Nagaworld formed an alliance with the National Olympic Committee of Cambodia to support the Cambodian contingent for the 2011 SEA Games in Indonesia as well as at the London 2012 Olympics. NagaWorld subsequently signed a four-year agreement with the NOCC in 2015 for major international sports events including the Olympics, SEA Games and Asia Games until 2018.

Since 2016, NagaWorld has also hosted the annual Cambodian Sports Awards in conjunction with the NOCC, acknowledging and rewarding Cambodian athletes, coaches and media for their continued success.

As part last years’ ‘Go For Gold’ SEA Games campaign, NagaWorld rewarded $3,000 for an individual gold medal and $5,000 for a team gold medal.

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