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Running on ambition

Landmine survivor Choun Anny plans to be back running her training circuit of Olympic Stadium in Phnom Penh this month, preparing for a third international competition in Indonesia later this year.

Just returned from Guangzhou in southern China, the 28-year-old amateur athlete is proud to have represented Cambodia in the first Asian Para Games, along with four other runners and a swimmer. She was the only woman on the team and won a 200-metre race against a Burmese runner.

However, she noted that her win didn’t gain her a medal – only athletes from China were awarded those. “It seemed unfair that other competitors got medals but I didn’t,” she said, leaning back in a wicker chair outside the Rehab Craft store on Street 278 where she lives and works.

Being an international landmine athlete, Choun Anny can also look forward to a better livelihood for herself. “If I can join in an international competition every year and earn at least one medal, I will earn at least four million riel (about US$10,000) a year from the government,” she said proudly.

“I want other Cambodian disabled people to live in hope and try to develop themselves because now there are more opportunities for them in various sectors such as music, arts, design and even sports,” she said.

And as disabled people have empowered themselves here, she said she has faced less discrimination in the past decade.

As we reported in 7Days last November 7, Choun Anny lost her right leg at the age of 11 to a landmine when she was helping with farming chores at her home in Kampong Cham province.

Her sewing skills led her to start work at the Rehab Craft store, a non-profit, fair trade NGO that creates handicrafts from silk, silver, wood and recycled items. Later, a man working for the Cambodian Disabled Athletics Federation (CDAF) encouraged her to start running for her health. CDAF fitted a new prosthetic leg for her to run on in Guangzhou, but athletes from other countries had better equipment, Choun Anny noted. But the cold weather, ranging from 10 to 20˚C – and being on Chinese TV – put her at a disadvantage, she felt.

Nevertheless, Guangzhou was a “wonderful experience” and she has four albums full of photos to prove it. “It was beautiful there,” she said, “and the people, food and accommodation were all so good.”

But for now, Choun Anny is happy to be home and to be in a climate that she’s used to. She is also happy to resume training for future competitions, including the one in Indonesia, which she said she’s more comfortable with as it’s on a smaller scale than the games in China. “There will only be 11 countries competing in that one,” she said. “It’s not as intimidating.”

Hopes for future wins aside, her goals also include having a shop of her own one day. “I want to have a shop like this in the future. I think I can design, produce and sell things like these,” Choun Anny said with her perpetually optimistic smile.

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