As the Southeast Asian Games nears, Cambodia’s athletes have been urged to ‘Go For Gold.’
If the 179-strong SEA Games contingent can return to the kingdom with some silverware, they are set for a bumper package of incentives courtesy of casino-giant NagaWorld.
The announcement of a slew of prizes was made at a launch event yesterday at Nagacity Walk, attended by key officials, Nouth Sa An, secretary of state at the Ministry of Interior and first vice-president of the National Olympic Committee of Cambodia (NOCC), and Vath Chamroeun, NOCC general secretary.
NagaWorld has been a firm advocate of Cambodia’s sportsmen and women in major sporting events since 2011, sponsoring athletes at successive SEA Games, Asian Games and last summer’s Rio Olympic Games. It even boasts its own eponymous football team, NagaWorld FC.
As part of their ‘Go For Gold’ SEA Games campaign, NagaWorld promises to reward $3,000 for any individual gold medal won and $5,000 for any team gold medal. In addition, a $500 contribution will be made to the NOCC for each gold medal.
NagaWorld also sponsored a complete set of branded apparel and sports gear, all of which were paraded by athletes during yesterday’s media launch.
NagaWorld executive director Pern Chen said: “We would like to extend the best wishes to the National Olympic Committee of Cambodia, athletes and staff heading to the SEA Games in Kuala Lumpur.
“NagaWorld is honoured to continue our sponsorship and support of the NOCC and national contingent to Go For Gold at the SEA Games and represent the Kingdom of Cambodia with pride.
“Looking at the significant milestones achieved by our national athletes over the years we are confident they will continue to shine on the world stage.
“NagaWorld is proud to lend our support to our athletes beyond the 2017 SEA Games in Malaysia including the Asian Games in Indonesia next year.
“It is our great honour to be part of this meaningful journey together with the NOCC in promoting sports development for the country.”
Mr Chamroeun thanked NagaWorld for their continued support and said he was optimistic about Cambodia’s chances at this year’s competition.
“NagaWorld has helped encourage many athletes to strive further and get medals,” he said.
“We expect that our athletes can reach their potential and do better than 2015.”
Also in attendance at yesterday’s extravaganza was the national football team led by head coach Leonardo Vitorino.
The squad will participate in the six-team Group B, alongside Vietnam, Myanmar, Indonesia, the Philippines, and favourites Thailand.
Coach Vitorino conceded that the negotiating the group would be tough for his squad, but welcomed the prospect of testing his side against some of the region’s best teams.
“It’s a strong group but it’s better to play in a group like this if you are looking to the future. Strong games, strong players and better future,” Vitorino explained.
He will hope to improve on the Angkor Warriors’ fourth place finish in Group A at the 2015 iteration of the Games.
Their sole win in that edition was a 3-1 defeat of Philippines. Prak Mony Udom, Keo Sokpheng and Chan Vathanaka were all on target, though all three have since graduated to the senior team and are ineligible for this year’s squad.
Their opening match will take place next Tuesday with the team playing against the Philippines at the Majlis Perbandaran Selayang Stadium.
The latest round of incentives comes on the heels of last week’s audience with Prime Minister Hun Sen, who received a delegation of over 270 of the kingdom’s athletes and officials to the Peace Palace ahead of their departure for Kuala Lumpur.
The Prime Minister, who in January received an International Olympic Committee award in recognition of his efforts, had praised athletes who represented Cambodia on the world stage.
However, the PM warned away from the use of all prohibited substances, doping and performance-enhancing drugs, reiterating that athletes must respect the rules and regulations of sporting competition.
“The Royal Government of Cambodia’s national development plan has succeeded in creating an environment where young players have the opportunity to train in sport and compete on the international stage,” he said.
“Currently, our country, especially in schools, has gymnasiums and equipment for students to train in both urban and rural areas. We will continue to encourage by building up our sports infrastructure.”
A monument to the government’s commitment to the development of sport is The Morodok Techo Sports Complex on the northern outskirts of Phnom Penh.
Phase 1 was completed in April and forms part of a larger sports complex under construction for the last four years.
A new multi-million-dollar main stadium will be the centrepiece of the 2023 SEA Games, while the complex in its entirety is estimated to cost about $200 million when completed.
Construction began in April 2013 on a 94-hectare lot near National Road 5 in Russei Keo district and is key to helping the kingdom meet high international standards demanded for the SEA Games.
Sean Borath, secretary of state of the Ministry of Education Youth and Sport, previously stated that construction of infrastructure would be beneficial for Cambodia as it builds towards hosting the 2023 edition of the region’s premier sporting competition.
“Cambodia was scheduled to host the event in 1963 but it was not possible at the time. So in 2023, it will be here for the first time. Under the direction of Prime Minister Hun Sen, we have constructed a new 65,000-seat stadium, the Morodok Techo Stadium. This is one of the icons which shows that Cambodia is ready to host the SEA Games.”
Asked whether Cambodia will be seeking support from Malaysia ahead of 2023, Mr. Borath answered in the affirmative;
“The SEA Games for 2023 is important for Cambodia and we will of course be sending an observational committee to Malaysia [in August] to learn about organisational matters. This will help us ahead of 2023,” he said.
The kingdom’s taekwondo darling Sorn Seavmey, a 2014 Asian Games gold medallist, missed out on the 2015 SEA Games in Singapore due to 2016 Rio Olympic Games’ qualification commitments but is raring to go for this year’s event. She won the gold medal in the 73kg category at the 2013 SEA Games in Myanmar. Petanque athletes Ke Leng, Ouk Sreymom and Sok Chan Mean are also expected to be in the running for medals.
Cambodia, who will compete in 24 sports, are keen to improve on the solitary gold won in Singapore – the national men’s Chinlone squad claiming the kingdom’s only gold medal. Cambodia took top honours in the four-team, chinlone-linking event of the Sepak Takraw competition after defeating Laos 2-0 in the final. Cambodia also claimed 5 silvers and 9 bronze medals.
2015 Medal winners were rewarded with more than $400,000 and the Prime Minister, an avid golfer himself, has often stressed the significance his government places on sporting success. Each SEA Games gold medallist is set to receive $10,000, silver medallists can expect $7,500, while those bringing home a bronze will be rewarded with $4,000.
Cambodia’s contingent to the Myanmar edition in 2013 remains the target to beat. There they achieved an all-time high medal count; eight gold medals, 11 silver and 28 bronze.
The kingdom’s best chances of medals are expected to come from sepak takraw, taekwondo, petanque, boxing, tennis, and karate.
The competition, the 29th edition of the Games, will be contested between August 19-30 and features 404 events in 38 sporting disciplines.